They didn't test positive, but COVID-19 'long haulers' believe the virus is what's ruined their health

There is a growing number of Canadians who believe they are suffering from COVID-19, even though they have not tested positive. They call themselves "long haulers" because the symptoms have lasted for months with little explanation.

Northerners part of a growing group of Canadians who believe the virus can have long-lasting effects

A man wears a protective face mask as he walks past the emergency department of the Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, B.C. Friday, April 3, 2020. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Kelli Nadeau came home to North Bay in early March from Las Vegas and suddenly she couldn't breathe.

"It felt like the air wasn't going to the back of my head," she said. 

"Doctors didn't understand what I meant when I said that."

The pain in her chest lasted for weeks and she finally went for a COVID-19 test, which came back inconclusive.

But the 35-year-old continues to suffer from severe muscle pain, can barely lift her arms to dry her hair and instead of going for regular runs, she finds she can barely walk down the street. 

"This has completely changed my life," Nadeau said. 

"I feel like you're so in your head because I was so healthy before and the symptoms are all so strange and hard to describe, like not like anything else, that you start to think are you going crazy or is it just depression?"

Kelli Nadeau, 35, of North Bay believes she contracted COVID-19 travelling to the U.S. in early March and is still dealing with muscle aches and 'brain fog' nine months later. (Supplied)

She is part of a growing group calling themselves "long haulers," who have struggled for months with symptoms they believe are tied to COVID-19. 

Nadeau says she's gotten a lot of help by joining the Facebook group Covid Long Haulers Support Group Canada, which Lin Fay of Sudbury is also a member of. 

"I've had 14 doctors work on me and still no answers," said Fay, 57. 

Fay also believes she caught COVID-19 in the spring, even though her test came back negative.

She says she's dealt with problems hearing, breathing (it felt like there were "rocks stuck up my nose") and thinking in the last eight months. 

"The scary part was that my brain actually turned off. Like boom, that's it. And I could feel it just like shutting down," Fay said. 

"That's what I felt too," Nadeau said. 

"I had that issue going to the doctor for months and months where the brain fog was so bad, I wasn't in my own body. It was the scariest thing I've ever experienced."

Lin Fay, 57, of Sudbury says she's seen 14 doctors for the symptoms she's been feeling since late March, but she doesn't know for certain that COVID-19 is to blame. (supplied )

Fay says her life has totally changed in the last few months. She has no energy to go for her once regular walks, but she is travelling more on foot now, afraid to take public transit and possibly be exposed to COVID-19 again. 

"I'm drained. I can't even get out of bed. I still can't breathe through my nose, my ears are still going crazy. My neck muscles are all gone," she said.

These two women and other COVID-19 "long haulers" fear there won't be many supports for them after the pandemic, although there is also increasing research into the long lasting effects of the virus. 

Both Fay and Nadeau say are happy to hear of the progress on a vaccine, but aren't sure it will be effective for people like them who are still dealing with symptoms. 


Erik White


Erik White is a CBC journalist based in Sudbury. He covers a wide range of stories about northern Ontario. Connect with him on Twitter @erikjwhite. Send story ideas to


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