Many questions remain about ‘long COVID’

IOWA CITY — Cases of COVID-19 are again rising nationwide, and the experts say more Iowans are becoming vulnerable to what’s known as “long COVID,” or persistent symptoms that last for several weeks, even months.

Lauren Graham, director of the post-COVID clinic at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, says they don’t know why some people develop ongoing symptoms and she adds, there’s no typical patient based on race, sex or age. “I also see perfectly healthy 30-year-olds and 75-year-olds have many chronic conditions,” Graham says. “So it can really affect anyone, and the severity is not often matched with the severity of the illness, or the number of chronic medical conditions they have.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, about one in five people who get COVID develop some kind of long-term symptoms. Graham says long COVID is generally defined as someone who has symptoms lasting at least four weeks.  “Really, really significant fatigue, shortness of breath, cough, and then persistent change in taste and smell,” Graham says. “Those are the most common symptoms of long COVID that we see.” She says it’s important to stay up to date on COVID vaccinations and talk to your doctor about possible treatments like Paxlovid if you do get sick. Last week, Governor Reynolds issued a statement vowing COVID-19 restrictions like mask mandates in colleges and businesses would not be revived in Iowa.

Reynolds said her office has been fielding phone calls from Iowans concerned some COVID-19 restrictions are being reinstituted in other states.