New "long COVID" clinics treat mysterious and ongoing symptoms

The clinic sees many such patients, commonly known as long haulers. On a Tuesday afternoon in May, eight of them arrived at the facility to see a team of therapists and physicians. Like Flynn, each patient hoped to find, if not a cure, at least a reprieve from the myriad symptoms that had afflicted them for months in the wake of their COVID diagnosis. Over three to four hours, these people went through an exhaustive medical workup by a variety of specialists. A rehabilitation physician, an internist, a psychiatrist, a neuropsychologist, a physical therapist and an occupational therapist cycled through each patient’s exam room to assess their condition. “It’s a big effort for them to come for half a day, and we want to make sure it’s worth their while,” says the clinic’s co-director John Baratta, who developed this multidisciplinary approach...

The new clinics also are studying the condition as they try to treat it. Many, such as UNC’s, are based at academic medical centers where patient care is married with ongoing research in an effort to better understand what causes these persistent problems, predict who is most vulnerable and devise the best treatments. Baratta started thinking about starting the UNC clinic last year when he noticed that some patients in his physical medicine and rehabilitation practice took longer than expected to recuperate from COVID. “Most people would recover within just a few weeks, but we started to see people with lingering and really significant debilitating effects that lasted for months,” he says. “We realized the need for specialty care.”