Gary is a retired university professor, with a distinguished career teaching English. He was admired by students. An academic award is given in his name at a school where he taught for many years. He recently downsized and moved to be closer to family and friends in the Upper Midwest.
Gary’s retirement plans include travel, gardening and work at colleges and universities near his new home. He had looked forward to filling in for staff sabbaticals and as a part-time adjunct professor of English.
Gary lives with several disabilities, including a compromised immune system. He has been diligent about keeping up with vaccines for COVID-19 and other conditions that affect people in their 70s and older. He masks up in public and takes other steps to not become ill.
But Gary has not been able to ward off COVID-19, and has had a few bouts of the disease. More than once he has struggled with Long COVID. Those struggles have caused setbacks in his ongoing efforts to stay healthy.
A bout of COVID-19 in early autumn has led to another round of weeks of fatigue, brain fog, flu-like symptoms and a couple of falls for Gary. He is using a walker again, rather than a cane.
“I just get so tired,” he said. He has enjoyed walking around the condo complex where he lives, and visiting a nearby park. “Now I have days when I can barely get from one end of my condo to another. Making dinner can wear me out.”
Gary’s greatest fear is that despite his taking precautions, he could wind up with Long COVID issues for the rest of his life. “I know that not everyone who has Long COVID recovers and that really is scary for me. It’s not how I planned to spend my retirement.”
Gary’s story is one of the COVID-19 stories Access Press will start sharing on our web page in November.
Symptoms of Long COVID can include shortness of breath, extreme fatigue, headaches, dizziness, brain fog and memory issues. Symptoms may last for months or years, affecting mental health, quality of life and financial stability.
Long COVID and post-COVID conditions can be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) if the symptoms substantially limit one or more life activities. This determine has been in place since July 2021.
Some people with Long COVID have mild to moderate symptoms that gradually get better after several months. Others may have more severe symptoms and face challenges returning to work, school, family life, exercise, and other activities that help them to thrive. A subset of people will have very severe symptoms that leave them newly disabled by Long COVID. It isn’t yet known yet know if these effects will be permanent.
MDH was one of the first state health departments in the country to have a program and staff dedicated to Long COVID and post-COVID conditions. Program activities have included:
- Generating informational resources and raising awareness about long COVID.
- Conducting phone surveys to assess the impacts of COVID-19 and the pandemic on the lives of Minnesotans.
- Convening a Guiding Council of Minnesota clinicians who care for long COVID patients in primary and specialty care settings across the state. This group was launched in spring 2023.
- Partnering with community organizations to assess and address gaps in health equity.
- Engaging people with long COVID and their caregivers, local public health, employers, school nurses, and others to share information about long COVID, shape sector-specific resources, gauge unmet needs, and inform our efforts and priorities.
The long COVID program at MDH is supported in part by the CDC and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a two-year annual financial assistance award totaling $900,000.
Learn more about Long COVID, find links to research and clinical trials underway by others and find other resources at MN Department of Health – Long COVID
Note that MDH is providing links to help people find opportunities to be involved in research studies that may apply to them. But MDH is not involved in these research studies.
Access Press is providing COVID-19 coverage and resources through a grant with MDH.