Long Covid is affecting millions of Americans and the consequences are devastating

Millions of Americans who caught COVID have gone on to develop a range of debilitating symptoms that last for weeks, months, or years—this condition is called "Post Acute Sequelae of COVID-19," or "long COVID." Last month, the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis held a hearing to discuss the "devastating health and economic impacts of long COVID." In a press release, the Subcommittee presented its major findings, which included:

While More Research Is Needed, Long COVID Is Affecting Millions of Americans, and Its Economic and Public Health Consequences Will Likely Be Drastic and Lasting.

Long COVID Likely Disparately Affects Women, Black and Hispanic Americans, and Those with Disabilities.

We Must Overcome Barriers to Care to Support Americans Impacted by Long COVID.

One particularly informative participant in the hearings was Katie Bach, Former Managing Director at the Good Jobs Institute. She submitted written comments that are available in full here. In her comments, she specifically discussed the issue of how long COVID is impacting the US labor market and addressed the following four questions:

  • How many people have long Covid today? 
  • How many of those are out of work or working reduced hours due to long Covid? 
  • Is this situation likely to get better or worse over time, absent policy intervention? 
  • What can policymakers and employers do to mitigate this impact? 

She also presented her findings, the highlights of which include. 

  • Around 16 million working-age Americans likely have long COVID today.
  • Of those, anywhere from 25 to 65 percent may have a reduced ability to work — around four million full-time equivalent workers, or 2.4 percent of the entire US employed population.
  • This number appears likely to increase as more people get (re)infected.
  • To mitigate the economic drag of long COVID, policymakers should support improved healthcare, sick leave, disability, and workplace accommodation access, as well as better data collection on long COVID economic effects.

It seems to me that these figures should be startling news that US policymakers—in the realms of health policy, economic policy, and various social policies—should be taking very seriously. I'm not convinced yet that they are doing so, but I hope they start paying attention soon, because, as The Atlantic put it recently, "Long COVID could be a 'mass deterioration event.'" If anyone wonders why I keep masking and avoiding indoor gatherings, it's not because I think I'm going to die of COVID. It's because of long COVID, and because I don't want to be complicit in spreading COVID around to anyone else. For Katie Bach's full report to Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, click here.