Hundreds of papers from scientists in Europe and North America, as well as Egypt, Turkey, Iran and Thailand, indicate yes. But estimates of the scale of the problem vary wildly, reports my colleague Roni Caryn Rabin.

Researchers from the Desai Sethi Urology Institute at the University of Miami found that the risk of erectile dysfunction increased by 20% after a bout with Covid. Other researchers have reported even larger increases.

Research from imaging scans and biopsies indicates that the coronavirus can infect tissue in the male genital tract, where it can persist. But scientists say it may be too early to be certain of a link, as many factors – psychological and physiological – play a role in producing and maintaining an erection. The pandemic has led to social isolation and an increase in anxiety and depression, all of which may play a role.

“Men’s erections are more complicated than people think,” said Dr Justin Dubin, who co-authored a paper on the negative impact of Covid on men’s health. Blood circulation and good hormone levels are important, he said, “but you also need to be in a good frame of mind and you also need to be excited. If any of those things go wrong, you may have trouble getting an erection.

In this sense, experts say that the pandemic is the perfect confluence of converging factors that can cause erectile dysfunction.

Some researchers believe erectile dysfunction may be linked to the well-documented loss of the ability to taste and smell experienced by Covid patients, as these senses play an important role in sexual arousal.

At the very least, men need healthy blood vessels and good blood flow to develop and maintain erections, and the coronavirus can damage the circulatory system. Blood vessel injuries can also contribute to more serious complications of Covid, such as heart attacks, strokes and abnormal clotting.

“Our whole vascular system is connected — it’s not an isolated penis problem,” said Dr. T. Mike Hsieh, director of the University of California San Diego Men’s Health Center. Erectile dysfunction can resolve on its own, but Dr. Hsieh encouraged men with symptoms to see their doctor, and as soon as possible.

“If you’re having these issues, don’t wait,” he said. “For the most part, we can get guys’ sex lives back.”

Hospitalizations are rising again in the United States and experts are concerned about the potential strain on the healthcare system.

On Wednesday, nearly 18,000 people with the coronavirus on average were in US hospitals, an increase of nearly 20% from two weeks ago. This includes patients admitted for other reasons who tested positive on arrival.

The influx has been even larger in hotspots, like the one that started in upstate New York and spread to neighboring states. There were 2,119 patients hospitalized in the state with Covid as of Tuesday, 47% more than two weeks ago.

The figure is still well below Omicron’s winter peak in January, when about 13,000 people were hospitalized statewide, but it has been rising, propelled by the rapid spread of the BA.2 subvariants. At the same time, hospitals are grappling with staff shortages and a recent rise in infections among their staff.

“Covid is here, Covid is an issue,” said Michael Stapleton, chief executive of FF Thompson Hospital in Canandaigua, NY. “But the main challenge here is staffing.”

I made chocolate chip cookies with my son tonight. It’s so interesting how memories can be very sensory. My first bite was such an overwhelming “yum, it tastes like quarantine” feeling. Yes, we made a lot of cookies when we were in our Covid bubble, which we’ve mostly come out of now since everyone in the house except me had Omicron in January.

— Jenny Wilkinson, Dallas

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