Md. COVID-19 survivors join online forum group offering resources and support

As thousands of people in the Metro D.C. area recover from COVID-19 infections, Maryland is offering impacted residents resources and support through an online forum called COVIDConnect.

So far, about 1,600 people have signed up for access to its virtual support groups and webinars. They will also receive information about research that they may be able to assist.

“Individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 really want to give back,” said Donna Gugel, director of the Prevention and Health Promotion Administration for the Maryland Department of Health

“So many have reached out to ask how they can donate plasma and how they can participate in different trials,” Gugel said. “And, some are interested in becoming a peer facilitator for some of the support groups.”

“Those who have recovered from COVID-19 have a huge part to play in fighting this virus,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said in a news release. “Johns Hopkins, the University of Maryland and the National Institutes of Health have already reached out to provide current information about clinical trials directly to recovered patients through this platform.”

People also are using the site to share their stories.

“Right now, we have about 11 stories, and everybody’s story is different,” Gugel said. “One person had a very mild case, but there are multiple people who had very traumatic cases. They want to tell their stories, and they want to connect with each other.”

Much like the fluid nature of what’s being learned about the novel coronavirus, the portal staff strives to shift or add resources to meet the needs expressed by the people it serves.

“We keep reaching out to ask them what they need. It’s not what we think they need; we want them to tell us what they need,” Gugel said. “So please, please, please sign up.”

Mental health resources are currently being offered through a partnership with the Maryland chapter of the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI). The group is working on developing online support group for the members-only community and plan to have a webinar on the idea next week, Gugel said.

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Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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