United States President Joe Biden makes remarks about the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) before receiving a second COVID-19 booster shot in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House in Washington, United States, on March 30, 2022.
Kevin Lamarques | Reuters
President Joe Biden Tuesday ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to lead a federal effort to investigate the diagnosis and treatment of prolonged Covid.
HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said Tuesday that he will head a national council that includes the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs and Labor. The council will share real-time information on how to prevent, detect and treat prolonged Covid, Becerra said during a White House Covid briefing.
Scientists and doctors still don’t fully understand why some people who contract COVID experience symptoms months later, sometimes with debilitating consequences for daily life. These symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue, concentration problems, body aches, tingling sensations, and mood swings, among others.
Even people who only had mild illness after infection and people who initially had no symptoms can develop Covid for a long time. according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Other people also experience autoimmune conditions that can affect multiple organ systems, including the functions of the heart, lungs, kidneys, skin, and brain. Nearly 8,000 children have developed such symptoms, known as multisystem inflammatory syndrome or MIS-C, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At least 66 children have died from MIS-C.
The national research plan will accelerate the enrollment of 40,000 people in the National Institutes of Health study of the long-term effects of COVID-19 contagion, according to the White House. The NIH launched the large study, known as Recover, in September.
The federal effort will also build on a national survey by the Department of Veterans Affairs on lingering symptoms after Covid infection, and a Department of Defense Study on the risk factors for developing the disease among the military.
Biden’s 2023 budget would invest $20 million to help provide better care for long-term Covid patients, including developing multi-specialty clinics. The budget also includes $25 million to boost CDC research on the risk factors and health effects of prolonged Covid.
“If we receive additional financial support from Congress, we will launch new centers of excellence in communities across the country to provide high-quality care to people experiencing long-term Covid,” Becerra said.
However, Congress has shown less willingness than the Biden administration to fund the U.S. Covid response. Senators on Monday reached an additional financing agreement of $10 billion from Covid for therapies, vaccines and tests, a sum less than half of what the White House wanted.
In July, HHS and the Justice Department said that people with prolonged covid qualify for protection against discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program should also cover long-term COVID treatments, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.