January 22, 2021

More than 24 million Americans have been infected with COVID-19. Over 400 thousand have died from it. Many survivors, for reasons we do not yet understand, continue to suffer symptoms for months. The condition is often called “long COVID,” and the people struggling with it described as “long-haulers.”

In a survey of people with a positive COVID-19 test who were treated at Montefiore Medical Center from March to December 2020, more than 20 percent of respondents reported continued symptoms six months after testing positive. These were not only people treated in the hospital, but also people seen in their primary care clinic and at the emergency department who were not hospitalized. Indeed, “long COVID” seems to be just as common in people who were not hospitalized as in those who were.

The symptoms of “long COVID” vary. They can include headaches, joint pain, diarrhea and muscle aches. More commonly, people report fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, and difficulty with memory and concentration. For many people, their sense of smell and taste has not returned to normal. New or worsening anxiety and depression is common.

People often worry that they will never get better, or that they will get COVID again and get even sicker. It can be incredibly difficult for “long-haulers” when multiple members of a household get COVID-19, but they are the only ones still feeling the consequences, weeks or months later.

Right now, we are going through the City’s second wave of the coronavirus. The Bronx is averaging over 1,000 new cases a day. It is crucial that we do everything we can to protect ourselves and our loved ones from getting COVID-19. The following are some important precautions to continue taking this year:

Wear a face mask in public or around people with whom you don’t live.

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water.
  • Get tested if you develop symptoms of COVID-19 or are potentially exposed to someone who has it. Testing is free and does not require an appointment. Find a test site near you by going to https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/find-test-site-near-you or texting COVID TEST to 85548. Vaccine distribution is bringing hope that someday soon this pandemic will be over, but we cannot forget that some people will continue to suffer for months and maybe years with the effects of the virus. We are here to help them. 
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  • Dr. Seth Congdon is co-director of the Montefiore COVID-19 Recovery and Engagement (CORE) clinic.
  • In response to the large number of community members affected by “long COVID,” Montefiore has started the COVID-19 Recovery and Engagement (CORE) clinic. Along with my colleague Dr. Aluko Hope, we have seen over 300 patients since June 2020. If you or someone you know is struggling with “long COVID,” you can make an appointment by calling (844) 556 6683, and then, choosing extension 36.