New York City Mayor Eric Adams along with NYC Health + Hospitals launched three COVID-19 Centers of Excellence located in the hardest-hit communities during the pandemic.
The newest and final health clinic opened in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and started treating patients in mid-February. The other two COVID-19 Centers of Excellence are stationed in the Tremont section of the Bronx and the Jackson Heights section in Queens.
“New York City is committed to making sure all New Yorkers affected by the pandemic, including those struggling with long COVID, have the resources they need for a full recovery,” Mayor Eric Adams told NBC New York.
These health centers act as a one-stop-shop for NYC residents who may be struggling with long COVID, a condition where lingering symptoms, such as fatigue, muscle weakness, brain fog and hair loss, occur post-acute infection.
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Because long COVID poses a variety of long-term impacts, these three clinics present specialized services in pulmonary, cardiology, radiology, pediatrics, dental and mental health services, as well as matching state-of-the-art equipment like negative pressure rooms.
"All of these sites would normally take six years to build, we were able to build them in six months," said Dr. Ted Long, SVP of Ambulatory Care and Population Health at NYC Health + Hospitals, in a recent interview with News 4.
According to Dr. Long, one of the biggest challenges he faces is getting patients to recognize that long COVID is real and to "not suffer at home in silence."
Financial resources are also laid out to navigate patients' sick or family leave, disability benefits, cash assistance and housing.
In treating long haulers, Dr. Long says the AfterCare program was built on the foundation of NYC's Test & Trace Corps, which started in 2020 as the city's COVID testing and contact tracing system for over 8 million residents.
"We've been able to reach 90% of everybody with COVID right up until omicron through our contact tracing team. We reached you once before, that means we can reach you once again," said Dr. Long, who also is the Executive Director for Test & Trace Corps.
While Dr. Long believes that the city is entering a new phase in the pandemic with at-home kits and COVID antiviral pills, he reiterates the importance of following patient symptoms.
Through the AfterCare program, patients who have recovered from the acute COVID infection will be monitored and called to check in on their health status.
The program created an inbound calling line for New Yorkers with long COVID to get in touch with health specialists. For those who may have questions on the condition or are interested in learning more, call 212-COVID19 or 212-268-4319 and press "4."
This story is part of a series, "Living with Coronavirus For the Long Haul," following long COVID experts and patients during the two-year pandemic anniversary. Watch the previous episode here.