The University of Michigan health system is joining a growing number of major medical institutions opening clinics specifically aimed at treating and studying patients with lingering, serious symptoms from a brush with COVID-19.
That could be as many as 10% of people who caught the coronavirus, one of the nation’s chief doctors recently testified.
Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City opened the first clinic for COVID-19 long haulers in May. Since then, at least 29 other hospital systems around the country have dedicated special units to treating people with lasting symptoms, according to Becker’s Hospital Review, a publication covering the hospital industry. Michigan Medicine announced this week that it plans to open two more.
Long haulers are receiving other attention as well. During testimony before Congress last week, doctors from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told lawmakers they were putting the finishing touches on guidelines that will be given to doctors for the best known treatments for long haulers.
At the same time, Mike Leavitt, a former Republican governor of Utah, and Nancy-Ann DeParle, former deputy chief of staff for policy under President Barack Obama, announced the creation of a new organization to support research on long-lasting COVID-19 symptoms and how to treat them.
In his appearance before Congress last week, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, estimated that as many as 3 million people could be left with chronic health conditions as a result of their COVID-19 infections, even if their symptoms were initially mild.
“I can't overstate how serious this issue is for the health of our nation," he said.
At the hearing before a House health subcommittee, long haulers described months of disability that left them with exorbitant medical bills and no way to pay if their conditions prevented them from working.
Long haulers have catalogued dozens of debilitating symptoms affecting nearly all parts of the body. Among them: fatigue, dizziness, nausea, headaches, muscle aches, high or low blood pressure, heart palpitations, brain fog, memory loss and fever. For many, these symptoms have persisted for months.
In announcing Michigan Medicine’s new clinics, Dr. Rodica Pop-Busui, director of the new Multidisciplinary Post COVID-19 Clinic for adults, told the Detroit Free Press, "The whole idea was to help patients to overcome these longer-term consequences of COVID ... when it became apparent that patients who had COVID do not necessarily recover completely.”
The second Michigan clinic will be for people under 21.