In a new story from The Daily Yonder, research is still ongoing to measure the impact COVID-19 “long haulers” could have on rural health care systems. With most rural facilities still under the strain of caring for COVID patients, caring for the long haulers could put additional pressure on an already over-burdened health care system.

From the story: “A study published in the journal PLOS Medicine in September found that as many as one-third of all Covid patients report long-haul symptoms that last between three and six months. Some studies have suggested that those who come down with severe cases of Covid have a 50% chance of having symptoms long-term. A small study in Germany found that 78 out of 100 Covid patients had lingering cardiovascular issues.

Carrie Henning-Smith, deputy director of the University of Minnesota Rural Health Research Center and associate professor in the Division of Health Policy and Management at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health said long-haul Covid patients will likely add to rural health challenges in areas where residents tend to be older, sicker, and poorer.

“I think that will be an additional challenge for rural health care, especially as we’re seeing higher rates of Covid and lower vaccination rates in rural populations,” she said in an email interview. The national rural vaccination rate is about 20% lower than the urban rate, and the Covid infection rate is about 40% higher in rural areas, according to the Daily Yonder’s most recent reports.

With research into the problem underway, facilities are having to prepare for returning COVID patients on top of new patients, with the consequences still unknown.

To read the rest of the story on the Yonder, click here.