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Memphis News & Weather | Memphis, TN | WATN - localmemphis.com

COVID-19 "long haulers" say Shelby County Schools returning to in-person learning would be a mistake

Teachers with lingering symptoms said the safety of the community is an issue.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Two Shelby County Schools teachers who suffered from COVID-19 said returning to in-person learning before teachers and staff are vaccinated is a bad idea.

Both are COVID-19 long haulers, which means months after having the virus, they are still suffering lingering symptoms. 

While studies have suggested returning to school without vaccinations of employees is doable, the two teachers said it is not worth the risk.

"All I am looking for now is normalcy and I don't know when that is going to come," said SCS teacher Loren Smith.

Smith is what's known as a COVID-19 long hauler. He was hospitalized while he was sick with COVID-19, then missed 2.5 months of work recovering from it. He said he still suffers respiratory problems.

"I still have trouble breathing. I have chest pains that mimic heart attacks," said Smith.

He is on multiple medications to help him breathe and now has multiple doctors.

"I have to go see a neurologist. I have to go see a heart specialist, and in addition, I go to my regular doctor often, so it has literally changed my life," said Smith.  

In addition, Smith said he has mood swings, brain fog, and skin rashes - all lingering symptoms from when he had the active virus. 

He added, "I am on a lot of medication. I still miss days from work for all the doctor appointments."

"I don't want anyone else to ever deal with this. My life may never the same," said SCS teacher Tiffany Crow.

Nine months after Crow had COVID-19, she still has reoccurring symptoms. From random rashes that appear on her body to "COVID toes," which is when your toes swell up and blisters appear for no reason, Crow said her lingering symptoms are a problem.

"Some of the symptoms come back randomly. And my taste and smell has never been normal since," said Crow.

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Both Teachers said after experiencing long-term effects of COVID, they believe it's best to wait for vaccinations before returning to in-person classes - not only for SCS employees, but also the students and the safety of the community. 

"I think it's the worst idea ever to put people in a situation where it could cost the lives of those children, the teachers, or their parents at home," said Smith. 

Smith said his lingering symptoms have resulted in regular trips to the emergency room. While he has insurance, many of the students and their families in the district don't.

"Every visit I make to the emergency room costs a lot of money, and I have insurance," said Smith. "If we just throw everybody back to school, how many of our babies are going to be able to pay for their health. How many of the parents going to pay or how many people are going to lose their life because they can't afford to fight everything that comes with COVID? This is a very expensive disease."

From large medical bills to time missed from work, Smith said it's something many parents in our community can't afford if they get COVID. He feels staying virtual for now will save lives.

"I would not wish COVID-19 on any individual. It was such a horrible experience," said Smith.