UW post-COVID clinic treating ‘long-haulers’ sees multifold increase in patients

Jan 26, 2021, 5:10 AM | Updated: 6:21 am
Aster Mekonen with housecleaning services disinfects her hands after cleaning and disinfecting a room after a patient has been released in the acute care COVID unit at Harborview Medical Center on May 7, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

The post-COVID Rehabilitation and Recovery Clinic at Harborview Medical Center has seen a multifold increase in patients needing clinic services through the fall and winter months.

UW Medicine says the spike in patients began at the end of the summer and continued into the winter. Dr. Aaron Bunnell, a UW Medicine rehabilitation specialist, expected to see a steady stream of patients needing therapy post-COVID-19, but didn’t expect this big jump.

UW Medicine launches telehealth clinic for COVID-19 patients in recovery

Staff at the center are exploring new treatments for COVID-19 “long-haulers,” which are patients experiencing symptoms months after contracting the virus.

The center opened in May and UW Medicine says about two people per week were seeking out the clinic, but that’s now up to 25 per week being referred to clinic services, as estimated by Bunnell.

“At the end of summer, we were seeing decreased volumes, the pandemic was a little more under control. And now with the second wave that’s coming, we’re seeing a lot more patients,” he said.

The age range for patients is large, from pediatric patients to people in their 70s. Initially, it was thought that young people were mostly spared from COVID-19 impacts and that this was a disease that affected people with comorbidities and older age. While those populations remain at greater risk, Dr. Bunnell says younger people are not completely spared.

This clinic was set up as a post acute respiratory distress syndrome or post-ICU clinic. Dr. Bunnell explains that ICU stays can affect multiple domains, including physical, cognitive, and mental health.

“I think what we’re finding in COVID is it’s not just the ICU patients who are affected in those ways,” Dr. Bunnell said.

“I would say that 10-30% of patients are going to have one of those domains affected at three months,” he added. “What we’re going to know as time goes on is how many people are affected at a year, or two years, or five years.”

Dr. Bunnell thinks there will be more infections and more long-haulers needing treatment.

“I think we’re going to have a lot more infections, and even if it’s only 5% of the infections that have long-term effects, it’s still a massive public health issue,” he said.

“My hope is that most people recover fully but we may be dealing with a group of patients who has more long-term effect,” Bunnell said. “Not just three months, but a year, or five years, or indefinite effects. And we really want to be here to serve … and help rebuild life in whatever way we can for those patients.”

First cases of UK COVID-19 variant found in Washington

There are two ways to be referred to the Post-COVID Rehabilitation and Recovery Clinic: Your doctor can provide a referral, or you can contact the UW Medicine Contact Center at 206-520-5000 and ask to be seen with the COVID-19 clinic out of Rehab Medicine. There is also a telemedicine option.

Local News

Climate Pledge Arena...
Associated Press

Climate Pledge Arena ready to get Kraken for hockey debut

The first event ever inside Climate Pledge Arena — whether it will be considered the official first event or not — was far from a soft opening.
1 day ago
shipping containers...
KIRO 7 News Staff

Approximately 40 shipping containers adrift off Washington coast

Approximately 40 shipping containers were lost off a ship 43 miles west of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, according to the United States Coast Guard.
1 day ago
Kathryn Altena

Gov. Inslee, Washington groups prepare to welcome Afghan refugees

In the coming months, 1,400 Afghan refugees are expected to pass through the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport upon their arrival in Washington.
1 day ago
King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski...
Nick Bowman

King County Councilmember accused of history of ‘verbally abusive’ behavior toward female staff

King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski is facing accusations detailing a history of verbally abusive behavior toward female staff members.
1 day ago
Microsoft campus, vaccine...
KIRO 7 News Staff

Racial harassment allegations at Microsoft campus construction site in Redmond

Racial harassment on the job — that’s what a Black construction employee says he was dealing with for months at the build site on Microsoft’s campus in Redmond.
1 day ago
Jaime Herrera Beutler...
Nick Bowman

Washington Rep. Herrera Beutler breaks from GOP party line again over Bannon contempt vote

Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler was among nine Republicans who voted in favor of holding Steve Bannon in contempt on Thursday.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles


Medicare open enrollment for 2022 starts Oct. 15 and SHIBA can help!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for both lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.

Small, Minority-Owned Businesses in King County and Pierce County Can Now Apply For $10,000 Relief Grants Through Comcast RISE

Businesses in King County and Pierce County can apply beginning on October 1, 2021, at www.ComcastRISE.com for a chance to receive a $10,000 relief grant.
UW post-COVID clinic treating ‘long-haulers’ sees multifold increase in patients