Report: More than 700,000 Coloradans believed to have developed long COVID

Imagine a sold out Broncos game. Now multiply that by nine. That's almost the number of people who have had long COVID in Colorado.
Posted at 1:52 PM, Mar 02, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-03 13:27:00-05

DENVER — The Office of Saving People Money on Health Care’s Annual Report for Long COVID was just released – and as it turns out, it’s affecting more Coloradans than expected.

As many as 707,000 people in Colorado are believed to have developed it.

In the last year, the state received a $5 million research grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality to improve access to care for long COVID patients. The OSPMHC also established relationships with other states working on long COVID to share information and knowledge.

Dr. Sarah Jolley is the director of the Post-Covid Clinic at UC Health, one of three clinics in the state specially designated to treat long COVID patients.

Altogether, the clinics have seen about 10,000 patients since 2020.

“What we're seeing in the clinic is that we have a building number of patients that have become longer term, long COVID patients, and then still a kind of large, steady influx of new long COVID patients. And so we just have a very high proportion of patients who are needing help,” said Dr. Jolley.

The most recent data from October 2023 estimates that 15.2% of adults have had long COVID, with 5.4% experiencing symptoms right now.

That's over 200,000 Coloradans.

With so many affected, these clinics are seeing a waiting list of one to six months.

“I think one of the problems is patients just don't know where to go. And that can get frustrating very quickly,” said Dr. Matthew Light, a pulmonary and critical care physician at UC Health in northern Colorado.

Specialists at UC Health recognize the emotional toll the condition has taken on those affected.

That’s why they’ve created a monthly support group in Loveland.

The Long COVID IDS group is open to anyone experiencing long COVID, whether they’ve been diagnosed with it or not. The group will meet monthly from 5:30-7:30 p.m. in the Longs Peak Conference Room at UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies. Attendees may also join via Zoom. The group is accepting topic discussion suggestions through this online form or via email.

Report: More than 700,000 Coloradans believed to have developed long COVID

“We can kind of talk through some of those things that you can adapt to make your life a little bit easier while you're dealing with this. But I think that it will be a huge turning point in anybody dealing with long COVID - finding that point where they can accept their limitations, find people who can support that, and then adapt their life to make it easier,” said clinical nurse educator Michaela Martinez.

According to the report, the OSPMHC is working to include long COVID in graduate medical curriculums.

“I think we need ongoing clinical trials. I think the hope with the clinical trials is that we can start to get some therapies that can lessen the severity of disease, or maybe even halt progression, or development of long COVID to begin with,” said Dr. Jolley. “We also need to think about how we can care for the many patients who are experiencing symptoms now, so I think we also need to think about how we can continue to build up a workforce for long COVID.”

Strength in numbers – it’s what’s giving both healthcare professionals and patients hope.

“I think you're going to need people in the medical field who are really dedicated to this issue, and bring all those people together. And I think that's how we're going to fix the problem,” said Dr. Light.

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