COVID-19 damages lungs of asymptomatic and most severe patients alike, scientists believe

The medical examiner for Pinellas and Pasco County has a warning for people not taking this pandemic seriously.

“This isn’t the flu this isn’t anything we know,” Dr. Jon Thogmartin told Pinellas commissioners earlier this week.

Dr. Thogmartin’s office has done a post-mortem examination of people infected with COVID-19.

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“My gosh, I really don’t know how to say it without being gruesome, it just destroys the lungs,” he said. “Let me just say that.” The bodies he examined were from the most intense cases of COVID-19, in which the virus obviously claimed their lives.

“When the person dies, you can find lungs that don’t look and feel like lungs anymore,” Thogmartin said.


Even in non-lethal and asymptomatic cases, scientists say they are now finding some lung damage.

Scientists at Scripps Research Institute looked at a study of asymptomatic COVID-19 patients from a cruise ship. CAT scans showed they had lung damage even without experiencing symptoms. Those same scientists say asymptomatic people may account for 40 – 45% of cases, and that is why they say more testing is needed in people without symptoms.

As for cases in people who did not survive, Thogmartin said, “I’ve done a lot of autopsy’s...the amount in changes of the blood even post-mortem, is quite unprecedented.”

A previous version of this story said Thogmartin observed asymptomatic patients who had lung disease.