Virtual Support Groups Assist COVID-19 Survivors

On laptop diverse people collage webcam view over woman shoulder
Getty Images

Health care workers, including mental health providers, are seeing COVID-19 patients exhibit symptoms even after they’ve beat the illness. In response, Paragon Management, which runs nursing and rehabilitation centers in Nassau, Suffolk, Queens and Westchester, launched three virtual, post-COVID-19 support groups in June.

“The big [misconception] is that when you’re done with COVID, you’re done with it, and that’s not true,” said Lisa Penziner, a nurse and special projects manager at Paragon. “There’s lingering effects.”

Common side effects that survivors can face for weeks and months after fighting off the virus include brain fog, fatigue, shortness of breath, coughing, hair loss, and heart issues, Penziner said. 

The virus can also take mental and emotional tolls on people, and many suffer from anxiety, depression, and panic attacks — including those who came close to losing their lives to COVID-19. Along with Penziner, a psychologist joins each support group session to assist with mental health issues that the individuals may be facing.

“These people are afraid of getting sick again,” Penziner said. “They’re very angry to see people not wearing masks and not taking this seriously.”

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran urged coronavirus survivors to take advantage of the support groups during a news briefing on Thursday. She and Penziner, as well as two members of the support group who joined the briefing via Zoom, spoke about the benefits of joining the group.

“No matter what you are feeling post-diagnosis,” Curran said, “we want to reassure everyone that you are not alone and that there is support. There is a place for people who have overcome [the virus] but still are suffering to start a dialogue with others and get solutions.”

One of the two support group members, who is a nurse, said she was diagnosed with COVID-19 in March. Though she has recovered, she now deals with anxiety, hair loss and brain fog. She said that having people to talk to about her experience who understand gives her “a better peace of mind.”

Paragon offers three biweekly support groups for COVID-19 survivors. The meetings are held via Zoom and anyone can join regardless of where they live. The next session is Nov. 18. For more information, email [email protected] or call 516-457-5585.

For more coronavirus coverage, visit longislandpress.com/coronavirus

Sign up for Long Island Press’ email newsletters hereSign up for home delivery of Long Island Press here. Sign up for discounts by becoming a Long Island Press community partner here.