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'Very low energy level': Questions remain about lingering symptoms in COVID-19 long-haulers

Posted at 6:08 PM, Feb 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-09 23:35:41-05

SALT LAKE CITY — As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many people are continuing to fight symptoms after they recover.

For some, those symptoms have lingered for more than a year.

"I had COVID in December of 2020 before any vaccines were out," said Maria Bailey.

Bailey says COVID, coupled with pneumonia, landed her in the emergency room. Even after her bout with the virus, she is still dealing with symptoms.

"I have a very low energy level now. If I get up and walk down the hallway, my heart rate can spike. Taste and smell is still really off," she said.

Bailey is known as a COVID-19 long-hauler — someone who has lingering effects from COVID-19 weeks, months, or in her case, more than a year later.

The University of Utah opened a comprehensive COVID-19 clinic July of 2021, aimed at catering to patients like Bailey.

Dr. Jeanette Brown, the director of the Comprehensive COVID-19 Clinic, says they have seen 500 to 600 patients, four days a week.

She says studies are showing most long COVID patients have ranged in age from their 20s up to their 50s. She says while some patients are men, most are women.

"Some of the most common issues are fatigue," said Dr. Brown. "Brain fog, or this difficulty with thinking and word-finding, is very common and very frustrating for patients."

She says about 80 percent of her patients were not hospitalized with COVID before being treated at the clinic. The other 20-30 percent were hospitalized.

Dr. Brown says there are still plenty of questions, like how the different variants can impact who and who doesn't develop COVID-19 for the long haul.

"Some of our original long haulers that got some of the early variants are now getting omicron," she said. "That is a question that we don't know how that will affect them. So far, anecdotally, I have heard people say 'My symptoms are really different' or maybe 'My symptoms are worse.'"

Bailey said she is just hopeful her lingering symptoms go away at some point.

"To get somewhat back to normal, to where I have got some kind of energy, and this is not my life," she said.

Bailey is part of a group of Utah COVID-19 long-haulers that is holding free private classes for anybody to attend.

She says these virtual classes are designed by the Self-Management Resource Center at Stanford University.

Bailey says the classes are geared toward the long-haulers, teaching how to live successfully and cope better with chronic illnesses.