The Biden administration on Tuesday announced a new research effort into long COVID, the mysterious illness that may be affecting as many as one in three people who’ve had the coronavirus.
President Joe Biden issued an order to expand on the $1.1 billion RECOVER initiative and supported the view that the lingering illness in COVID patients appears to be a disability.
“The administration recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in new members of the disability community and has had a tremendous impact on people with disabilities,” the White House said in a statement.
The new initiative will focus on improving care and support, enhancing education and outreach, and advancing research, Health and Human Serviced Secretary Xavier Becerra said during a White House COVID-19 response team briefing on Tuesday.
“Long COVID is real and there is still so much we don’t know about it,” Becerra said. “Millions of Americans may be struggling with lingering health effects ranging from things that are easier to notice like trouble breathing or irregular heartbeat to less apparent but potentially serious conditions related to the brain or mental health.”
The administration will request another $25 million requested for next year’s budget to answer questions about risk factors of long COVID, and another $20 million to “investigate how health care systems can best organize and deliver care” for long COVID sufferers, according to the White House.
The administration is also pushing to accelerate the enrollment of 40,000 people in the RECOVER long COVID study through the National Institute of Health.
The “national research plan” will be driven by the DHHS but involve other agencies including the Department of Defense, Veterans Administration and Labor Department, the secretary said. A report to the nation will be due later this year.
“We see you,” Becerra told long COVID sufferers. “We are focused on you, and we are committed to advancing our nation’s capacity to understand and treat your conditions.”
More than a third of people who are infected by the coronavirus develop ongoing problems, although very little is still known about long COVID. The issue seems to be more likely to hit women than men, and some experts believe the condition may be caused by inflammation or an immune reaction by the body triggered by COVID that attacks healthy cells.
People with long COVID report varying lengths of sickness from weeks to a year — with a wide range of symptoms. An expert told the Associated Press he understands frustrations about the lack of progress on long COVID.
“For our culture today, which needs answers yesterday, it’s just hard,’’ said Dr. Fernando Carnavali of Mount Sinai Center for Post-COVID Care. “In chronic disease, in general, it’s not how it works. We have other examples, from HIV, answers did not come right away.”
With Post wires