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COVID-19 recovery time can take weeks, even months

John Mougin, chief quality officer for Northern Arizona Healthcare questions how long COVID-19 has been in existence. “Maybe more people have recovered than we know,” he said during Thursday’s NAH media briefing. VVN/Bill Helm

John Mougin, chief quality officer for Northern Arizona Healthcare questions how long COVID-19 has been in existence. “Maybe more people have recovered than we know,” he said during Thursday’s NAH media briefing. VVN/Bill Helm

VERDE VALLEY — If you contract coronavirus, health care professionals are not certain how long it will remain in your body.

That’s what Derek Feuquay, chief medical officer for Flagstaff Medical Center, said Thursday in a media briefing held by Northern Arizona Healthcare.

“Recovery (time) is variable,” Feuquay said. “It depends on how ill you get. You could have COVID-19 and be on a ventilator for two weeks. Some folks could be sick a couple of weeks. For others, it could be months.”

March 19, Yavapai County Community Health Services reported the Verde Valley’s first COVID-19 case. Two days later, two more Verde Valley cases were reported. On April 13, YCCHS reported that those three patients had recovered, nearly a month later.

Friday, Yavapai County Community Health Services reported 75 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with one death and six patients who have recovered from the virus. That adds up to 68 people still in recovery.

How long coronavirus has been present is unknown

According to Ron Haase, chief administrative officer for Verde Valley Medical Center, “many people test positive, then go home to recover.”

Not only is it unclear how long COVID-19 stays with each patient, it’s also not known how far back the first COVID-19 case goes, according to John Mougin, chief quality officer for Northern Arizona Healthcare.

“Maybe the virus has been around longer than we thought,” Mougin said Thursday. “We weren’t testing at the time, so maybe more people have recovered than we know.”

Although Yavapai County Community Health Services has a mechanism for tracking patients who have recovered from COVID-19, those figures only include people who tested positive for the virus.

But COVID-19 recovery, according to Yavapai County Community Health Services, is the “total resolution of symptoms,” according to Stephen Everett, section manager, communicable diseases.

“No fever, no cough, back to where they were before they got sick,” he said.

At this time, Coconino County Health and Human Services does not have “an accurate method to report recovery rates,” said Trish Lees, community relations manager and public information officer for Coconino County Health and Human Services.

“Because some people with COVID-19 have mild symptoms and do not get tested, and testing has been limited, a true recovery rate is not possible at this point,” Lees said. “We are working on providing a recovery rate based on confirmed cases.”

As of 8:30 a.m. April 24, Northern Arizona Healthcare reported that 34 of its in-house COVID-19 patients at Verde Valley and Flagstaff medical centers have tested positive. Twenty-four patients are waiting for testing results.

Northern Arizona Healthcare recently discharged a COVID-19 patient after 28 days, Mougin said Thursday. The discharge was not based on “recovery.” NAH discharges patients “when they no longer require hospitalization,” said Trista MacVittie, NAH chief experience and communication officer. “Conditions vary by patient.”

According to Feuquay, Northern Arizona Healthcare’s standard for discharge isn’t full recovery, whether COVID-19 or any other medical condition.

“They may still have symptoms,” Feuquay said. “When they go home, we ask that they self-isolate.”

-- Follow Bill Helm on Twitter @AZShutterbug42

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