Bay Area researchers launch study to understand effects of long COVID to develop treatment and prevention strategies


SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — Local health agencies are on a quest to learn more about the long COVID. To that end, organizers of a new research project will call residents who had previously had COVID to ask about their experience.

Charlie McCone is in his early thirties and says he has always led an active life.

“Biking, you know, 10 miles a day, back and forth from work, Sunset to SOMA, tennis, hiking,” McCone said.

That was until he got COVID in March 2020. A few weeks later, he says he thought he was recovering until his life changed drastically.

“It’s completely unrecognizable from what it was before. It’s a nightmare. I got sick when I was 30. I’m now 32. I spent my entire 30s with this condition , completely housebound,” McCone said.

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McCone is a patient at the UCSF Optimal Clinic for Long Covid.

UCSF, along with the San Francisco Department of Public Health and San Mateo County Health, is partnering with local community groups to learn more about long-lasting Covid, physical and mental health symptoms that last long after the initial infection.

Dr. Kim Rhoads, an associate professor at UCSF, is leading much of the study’s community engagement. She says long common Covid symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, pain, trouble concentrating, depression and anxiety.

“The coronavirus was called novel because it’s not something we’ve seen in human populations before and so we don’t know much about it, it’s only been 2.5 years,” said the Dr Rhoads.

Researchers want to know how long Covid has been common, what causes it, and how to prevent and treat it.

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“It’s desperately needed,” McCone said.

During Phase 1 of the project, researchers will call adult residents of San Francisco and San Mateo County who had COVID at least three months ago.

In phase 2, some people who have already been interviewed will be invited to participate in a more detailed research study lasting three to four years.

Dr. Rhoads says researchers are particularly interested in hearing from minority groups that have experienced higher rates of infections, hospitalizations and deaths.

“Black and brown communities have been disproportionately affected by COVID, suggesting that there will be a disproportionate impact of long covid in the same communities,” Dr Rhoads said.

McCone says everyone needs to understand the risks of a long COVID.

“If I knew there was up to a one in five chance that I could have a new chronic illness with infection, I absolutely would have adjusted my behavior, and I think millions of Americans will too,” he said. McCone said.

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