BALTIMORE, MD—The Maryland Department of Health on Thursday today announced that more than 1,600 recovered COVID-19 patients have registered with CovidCONNECT, a new statewide online forum that offers resources and support.
CovidCONNECT allows participants to share COVID recovery experiences and access mental health resources, information about new clinical trials, plasma donation opportunities, and virtual supports specific to those affected by the disease.
Many recovered patients have offered testimonials on the site and candidly talk about their experiences. Some of these testimonials are being used as informational videos to be shared through social media and other platforms across the state.
“Those who have recovered from COVID-19 have a huge part to play in fighting this virus,” said Governor Larry Hogan, who announced the development of CovidCONNECT in April. “Johns Hopkins, the University of Maryland and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have already reached out to provide current information about clinical trials directly to recovered patients through this platform.”
CovidCONNECT recently began offering live webinars for participants, with the first hosted by Dr. Miriam Laufer, professor of Pediatrics and Malaria Research Program Director at the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health. The webinar focused on the University of Maryland’s COVID-19 Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) Study. Another webinar last week, hosted by Evan Bloch, associate professor of pathology at Johns Hopkins Medicine, focused on a convalescent plasma study.
In the coming weeks, the site will be adding virtual support groups, working closely with NAMI Maryland (National Alliance on Mental Illness), which will help MDH facilitate the groups and train peer facilitators.
“When we launched CovidCONNECT, we had 800 people register in just the first week, which was beyond our expectations,” said Secretary of Health Robert R. Neall. “This resource has been embraced by many who have recovered from the disease, and we will continue to develop and add features that keep it relevant and useful.”
Those who have joined CovidCONNECT said they were inspired to connect with others who have been through some of the same experiences. They also are motivated to give back through participation in plasma donation or research.
“I personally know more than 10 people who have lost their lives to this virus, and another 20 who have pulled through. But unless you have it or have been touched by it, I guess it is hard to understand how difficult it is,” said Michele Spaulding, 62, who is featured in one of the COVID recovery stories. “Maybe my story will help others get through a difficult time, because this is hard mentally, as well as physically.”
Deputy Health Secretary Fran Phillips, a driving force behind the creation of CovidCONNECT, added: “So much is unknown about this virus, so we believe people need a place to connect, learn, and perhaps find new ways to contribute to research. It gives people a sense of empowerment in a crisis, which in other ways may feel beyond our control.”
Another member, Elizabeth Bauer, said the site gave her a sense of hope. “I wanted to join because I was looking for a support network. I felt very alone in the early days of the illness, as there were no resources and I didn’t know anyone else who had actually tested positive,” she said. “In sharing my story, I hope others will learn from it and will find comfort in knowing we are not alone.”
Learn more about CovidCONNECT at https://health.maryland.gov/covidconnect.