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Biden administration launches national research plan to understand and treat long Covid

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) before receiving a second COVID-19 booster vaccination in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building’s South Court Auditorium at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 30, 2022.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

President Joe Biden on Tuesday directed the Health and Human Services Department to lead a federal effort to research the diagnosis and treatment of long Covid.

The national research plan will accelerate enrollment of 40,000 people in the National Institutes of Health’s study of the long-term effects of Covid-19 infection, according to the White House. The NIH launched the large study, known as Recover, in September.

The federal effort will also tap a nationwide survey from the Department of Veterans Affairs about persistent symptoms after Covid infection, and a Defense Department study on the risk factors for developing the disease among service members.

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and the White House Covid response team will discuss the initiative during a press briefing at 3 p.m. ET.

Some people who contract Covid experience symptoms months later. These symptoms, which are debilitating for some, include difficulty breathing, fatigue, problems concentrating, body aches, tingling sensations and mood changes, among others.

Even people who only had a mild illness after infection and individuals who initially had no symptoms can develop long Covid, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Other individuals also experience autoimmune conditions that can affect multiple organ systems including heart, lung, kidney, skin and brain functions. Nearly 8,000 children have developed such symptoms, known as multisystem inflammatory syndrome or MIS-C, according to the CDC. At least 66 kids have died from MIS-C.

In July, HHS and the Justice Department said people with long Covid qualify for protection against discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program must also cover treatments for long Covid, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Biden’s 2023 budget would invest $20 million to help deliver better care to long Covid patients, including the development of multispecialty clinics. The budget also includes $25 million to boost CDC research into the risk factors and health effects of long Covid.

Congress has proven less willing than the Biden administration to fund the U.S. Covid response. Senators on Monday reached a $10 billion supplemental Covid funding deal for therapeutics, vaccines and testing — a sum less than half of what the White House wanted.

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