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Biden Announces New Research Plan on Long COVID Illness

FILE - A patient suffering from Long COVID is examined in the post-coronavirus disease clinic of Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, Israel, Feb. 21, 2022.

The Biden administration on Tuesday ordered the development of a new national action plan to halt long COVID — the long-term effects of COVID-19 — which can involve lingering symptoms of fatigue, brain fog, pain and shortness of breath.

Under the new plan, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will expand its research, care and disability services for those experiencing long COVID, and also will promote provider education, strengthen health care coverage for long COVID care, expand long COVID clinics and connect people with the resources they need.

Long COVID, whose cause is still unknown, can arise months after a positive test for COVID-19. It affects as many as 1 in 3 people who recover from COVID-19, according to estimates. About 2.3% of the U.S. population is affected by long COVID, and the illness has cost those who have it about $386 billion in medical bills, savings and lost wages, according to the Solve Long Covid Initiative, a nonprofit research and advocacy group.

The White House said research has been underway at the National Institutes of Health, which will assist HHS in organizing a critical new initiative across federal agencies.

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra arrives for a Senate Finance hearing on Capitol Hill, April 5, 2022.
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra arrives for a Senate Finance hearing on Capitol Hill, April 5, 2022.

"Long COVID is real, and there is still so much we don't know about it," HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said Tuesday at a press briefing.

"Americans of every age and background are experiencing long COVID," he said. "To be clear, we are going to use every tool we have to be there for these Americans."

The White House has acknowledged that long COVID appears to be a disability. Patients who suffer from the chronic illness could be entitled to protection under federal laws that require accommodations for people with disabilities and prohibit discrimination against certain health conditions.

"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.

Some information in this report comes from The Associated Press and Reuters.