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Living with long haul COVID: Views from doctors, advocates, survivors

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A rendering of the SARS-CoV2 virus that causes COVID-19. The virus is also responsible for a host of serious maladies that linger in patients long after their infections have abated. (credit CDC)

More than 800,000 Americans have died from complications related to COVID 19. More than 200,000 of those deaths occurred after vaccines were available. Despite that availability, more people died in 2021 than had died in 2020. The vast majority of those who have perished recently had not been vaccinated.

The Maryland Department of Health website was the victim of a cyber attack earlier this month. The only data that is current on the site concerns hospitalizations and vaccines. More than 1,100 people are currently in the hospital because of COVID. Several area public schools are reporting a significant uptick in cases, and nationwide, the country is experiencing a surge of cases because of the delta variant. The omicron variant has now been detected in 77 countries and 35 US states, including Maryland.

Today on Midday, we take a look at the problem of post-COVID conditions, commonly known as Long Haul COVID. Many people who are infected with the COVID-19, even with relatively mild cases, experience repercussions from that infection for many months after they are first diagnosed. A study published in October by researchers at the Penn State College of Medicine estimated that more than half of people who are infected with COVID 19 will experience post-COVID symptoms up to six months after recovering from the initial disease.

A team at Johns Hopkins Medicine works with Long Haul COVID patients to address a range of problems that include persistent fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, nausea, and a host of other debilitating conditions. A little later in the show, Tom speaks with two advocates who work with Long Haul COVID patients.

We begin with the co-directors of the Johns Hopkins Post-Acute COVID-19 Team, or JH PACT, an inter-departmental collaboration that operates clinics for patients with a variety of post-COVID conditions.

Dr. Alba Azola is an Assistant Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the Hopkins School of Medicine…

And Dr. Ann Parker is an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care at Hopkins.

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Dr. Ann Parker (left), Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine; Dr. Alba Azola, Assistant Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Hopkins. Together with Dr. Parker, Dr. Azola co-directs Hopkins' Post-Acute COVID-19 Team (JH PACT) clinics. (photos courtesy JHSOM)

Tom is then joined by Emily Taylor, the Director of Advocacy and Community Relations at Solve M.E., an organization dedicated to ending chronic fatigue syndrome.  Solve M.E. co-founded the Long COVID Alliance.

Tom's final guest today is Chimére Smith. She is a former middle school teacher in Baltimore who now serves as an advocate for people in urban communities who suffer from Long Haul COVID. Chimére Smith testified before Congress last Spring about her experience with Long Haul COVID. Her testimony to the House Energy & Commerce Health Committee hearing titled "The Long Haul: Forging a Path through the Lingering Effects of COVID-19" on April 28, 2021, can be read here.

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Emily Taylor (left) is the Director of Advocacy and Community Relations at Solve M.E., which co-founded the Long COVID Alliance; Chimére Smith is a former teacher who is now an independent member of the Long COVID Alliance, and serves as an advocate for people in urban communities who suffer from Long COVID. (courtesy photos)

We invited listeners struggling with the long-term effects of COVID to give us a call, or send us an email or Tweet, and tell us their story…

Host, Midday (M-F 12:00-1:00)
Malarie is Midday's Supervisory Producer.
Rob is Midday's senior producer.