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Yukon working group examines long-COVID

Yukoner Andy Lera believes he has been fighting long COVID-19 symptoms for nearly two years
Andy Lera (right) and his partner Pam Godin (left) pictured at Bennett Lake in July 2020 during their last camping trip before their experience with long COVID-19 set in. (Andy Lera/Submitted)

Andy Lera worries he could be in for the long haul.

The 47-year-old Yukoner believes he fell ill with COVID-19 in June 2020 when he struck off nearly all the symptoms on the checklist.

In a May 30 interview, Lera said that five weeks after the initial infection, he started experiencing intense migraines almost daily for a few months in a row.

“That was incredibly debilitating,” he said.

Lera has been hit with different phases of symptoms such as fatigue and cognitive issues over time since the initial infection.

Now Lera is connecting online with people who are dealing with parallel experiences. He is part of a new working group that the Yukon government has formed to examine post-COVID-19 condition, also known as long COVID-19, and those who are grappling with its effects.

The territorial government did not respond to the News’ questions about the working group and the estimated number of people living with this condition in the territory by press time. A spokesperson said May 31 the response was pending approval.

In a May 20 release, the government said the working group will count on emerging research and personal experiences to come up with information and resources in the coming months for Yukoners and those caring for people with the condition.

In the release, the group will be made up of people living with the condition, health professionals, an epidemiologist and representatives from the Department of Health and Social Services.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that it will bring more awareness,” he said.

His partner Pam Godin is also struggling with what appear to be the long-term impacts of COVID-19.

“It’s hard to predict what the day is going to be like, so even if it starts off as a good day, I don’t know if by afternoon I’ll be in a total crash and won’t be able to do anything,” he said.

Lera has been unable to work due to his experience.

“Over two years ago, I was climbing mountains and paragliding, and now I have a chair halfway up my stairs so I can stop and take a rest because I can’t sometimes – most of the time – I just can’t make it up a set of stairs without running out of breath,” he said.

Lera said he has tried going to see doctors and specialists, and is on the waiting list for an MRI. They have not been able to identify the cause of his symptoms, which Lera said have been attributed to post-viral issues.

In his experience, members of the public and health-care professionals “still do not even understand what it is and don’t have the tools to identify” the chronic condition.

A March 2021 powerpoint presentation by the World Health Organization about the lingering long-term effects of COVID-19 indicates that people who dealt with no symptoms or mild illness and were not hospitalized can experience a wide range of persistent or late symptoms including fatigue, headache, chest pain, muscle pain, loss of smell, cough, shortness of breath, palpitations, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, rash, recurrent fever, forgetfulness and depression.

In the powerpoint, more serious long-term complications can affect different organ systems in the body and some people feel like they do not fully recover or regain their health.

Recent findings from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. national public health agency, translate into one-in-five people between the ages of 18 to 64, and one-in-four people over age 65, experiencing an incident condition that might be attributable to a previous COVID-19 infection.

The Public Health Agency of Canada and Statistics Canada launched a new survey to learn more about the condition and its hold on the country.

On the federal government website, Canada is reviewing published studies on the topic to identify common symptoms, associated risk factors, prevention methods and how many adults and children are having difficulties with regular activities and daily living.

The website indicates people who are suffering from post-COVID-19 condition and are unable to work due to their symptoms may be eligible for the employment insurance program or disability benefits.

Lera fears he will not be able to make his mortgage payments down the line.

“I just can’t continue to go month after month without the level of income just to meet basic needs,” he said.

Lera hopes the working group will culminate in a Yukon-based long-COVID-19 clinic and more support and financial assistance to people in his position.

Lera believes the pandemic has not finished taking its toll.

Contact Dana Hatherly at

Dana Hatherly

About the Author: Dana Hatherly

I’m the legislative reporter for the Yukon News.
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