Researchers estimate that 8 million Americans are suffering from long COVID, facing symptoms like fatigue, brain fog, muscle pain and breathing trouble, to name just a few. To begin addressing this pandemic-induced pandemic of its own, U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley is hoping to better fund long COVID care.
“Because there is no federal program focused on providing multidisciplinary treatment and care for folks with long COVID, for many of our long haulers, their physical and mental anguish has only worsened,” she said. “Our first-of-its-kind bill, the Treat Long COVID Act, would address that head-on by investing heavily in creating and expanding long COVID clinics across the country.”
The bill would invest federal funds into several local-level COVID treatment initiatives. It would allow the Department of Health and Human Services to award grants up to $2,000,000 to health care providers, including community health centers, to treat long COVID, and would invest grant funds into new multidisciplinary long COVID clinics to treat the symptoms of the condition, with an emphasis on traditionally underserved populations.
Pressley developed the bill in consultation with the growing long COVID community nationwide, who expressed the importance of staffing these clinics with medical professionals who understand the complexities of long COVID. These clinics would also not deny anyone treatment based on insurance coverage, date or method of diagnosis or previous hospitalization.
Netia McCray, a long-hauler from Roxbury, described her debilitating symptoms in detail. “The inability to do simple math, the confusion, the short term memory loss, the seizures down to the micro-clots that are responsible for my heart attack have become my long-term COVID-19 symptoms,” she said.
Because the PCR test she received at the time turned out negative, she waited another year and a half to get the proper testing that confirmed she had long COVID. The only recommendations she got for months were to take Tylenol and do yoga.
“Forcing patients to treat serious physiological health issues with Tylenol, positive thinking and yoga is no longer an option,” she said.
The White House also introduced an initiative this week to address long COVID, which will expand research, disability access and medical care for those suffering from the condition. Pressley said she hopes that that initiative would address the gaping need for research into the condition, while her bill tackles the care component.
“For those that are living with cognitive impairments of brain fog, heart palpitations, trauma, physical anguish, we just have to meet their needs,” she said. “Their symptoms and experiences are real, as real as they are. They’re deserving of a real response.”