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Long COVID creates longtime battle among minorities without proper health access, belief among physicians

Posted at 6:08 AM, Mar 06, 2023

CLEVELAND — While the COVID-19 pandemic officially ended, its effects continue to impact many people across the nation and in Northeast Ohio. According to University Hospitals, studies show 20 to 30% or more of individuals infected with COVID-19 will continue to have health problems for weeks, even months, after their body has cleared the virus.

News 5 spoke with Dr. David Rosenberg, Medical Director at UH Covid Recovery Clinic, who says there may be even more people coping with Long COVID.

He said part of that is due to testing being somewhat under the radar now compared to the start of the pandemic since patients no longer have to go to the doctor or health department to get tested with the help of at-home testing.

Unless someone reports their result to the health department or their doctor, those results are not being recorded.

“Many people thought that it's in people's head and, you know, it's not real, but it is a real entity…we've evaluated probably 600 patients in the UH COVID Recovery Clinic since it began a little bit over a year ago,” he said.

Who is impacted most?

According to a recent CDC survey, 31.7% of Hispanic adults responded that they have had Long COVID, 28.7% among Black adults, and 27.6% among white adults. However, minority patients dealing with Long COVID are facing doctors who do not believe them, or they simply cannot afford to seek medical help or access resources.

“It's not like a strep throat where you can take a test and say, this is what the person had. It's also almost like a diagnosis of exclusion. So, you have to have a keen clinician who's well versed in understanding differential diagnosis to try and figure it all out,” said Rosenberg.

What to look for

Symptoms including fatigue, brain fog, shortness of breath, and headaches could be signs of Long COVID.

Rosenberg suggests being extremely transparent with your doctor.

"Just having somebody like it said who the patient can communicate with, it really goes a long way knowing that somebody believes that their symptoms are real.”

What’s next?

Rosenberg says a government agency for Health Care Research and Quality, “is geared to help health care generally of all populations in the United States. They're going to put out a proposal for health care institutions to put together multidisciplinary clinics surrounding Long COVID, particularly in vulnerable communities, rural communities, and inner-city communities.”

The UH Covid Recover Clinic is located at the Ahuja Medical Center and is accepting appointments. However, bookings are backed up like many clinics across the country.

“It’s not fair to patients. Believe me, I understand 100%,” Rosenberg said. “Over the last two years or so conferences monthly to try and educate clinicians about long COVID. So, we're trying to educate clinicians for them to understand the situation and hopefully, you know, they can guide their patients until they can get into the clinic.”

Rosenberg says there are plans to expand directly into the communities that need care most.

Long COVID research is also ongoing.