Advocates think federal government's long COVID plan falls short

Capitol Building
Posted at 3:48 PM, Oct 18, 2022

COVID-19 has caused persistent symptoms that can last weeks, months, or even years after their infection.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are more than 200 symptoms and 50 conditions associated with COVID-19 and, for the first time, the U.S. government announced in August its research plan to study and allocate resources for it.

In its announcement, the federal government acknowledged more research is “urgently needed to study the more than 200 symptoms and 50 conditions attributed to long COVID.”

Through the creation of a new office within the Department of Health and Human Services, the government hopes to expand access to long-COVID clinics and to develop evidence-based treatments for symptoms and conditions.

“You know we talk about some of the physical parts, but the mental and emotional strain is really great, and I think the anxiety is probably one of the greatest things for me,” said Heather-Elizabeth Brown, a long COVID patient who was put in a medically induced coma in 2020 after contracting the virus.

After she awoke, she felt persistent symptoms. Today, she takes more than 20 medications each day to help manage them.

“I’m appreciative of the response that the government has had. It could be less, but it also could be more,” she said.

According to federal data, as many as 1 in 4 Americans, or 23 million, who contract COVID-19 will have lingering symptoms more than six months after infection.

On a large scale, it affects the labor market; at the end of August, the Brookings Institution estimated that 15% of open jobs in our country were left unfilled because of long COVID.

On a smaller scale, it affects everyone who feels its lingering effects, which is why they know the federal government’s announcement is a start, but not a victory, for advocates.

“I think that the next step involves continuing to build the community,” said Brown. “I think when the community is strong and connected, the voice is stronger, and it’s amplified.”