About 16 million working-age Americans have long had COVID-19: Brookings Institution study

An estimated 2 million to 4 million American adults are out of work due to “long COVID,” according to a Brookings Institution study that examines the impact of the disease that afflicts some people even after their infections have been cleared.

The report says about 16 million Americans between the ages of 18 and 65 likely have a long form of COVID-19, in which symptoms last for weeks or months. The condition affects about 2.5% of COVID-19 patients and can include things like brain fog, fatigue, headaches, dizziness and shortness of breath, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Brookings estimates that the annual cost of lost wages from long COVID is about $170 billion per year and can reach $230 billion.

“These impacts are likely to worsen over time if the United States does not take the necessary policy measures,” said the institution, which based its analysis on data from the Household Pulse Survey (HPS). Census Bureau.

A study by the Minneapolis Fed found that a quarter of people who report having long COVID have had their jobs affected, either by losing a job or having reduced hours.

The midpoint of Brookings’ estimate of workers eliminated from the workforce by long COVID — 3 million — is about 1.8% of the civilian workforce.

“That may seem incredibly high, but it’s not inconsistent with the experiences of comparable economies,” said the analysis, released Wednesday.

Brookings pointed to a representative from the Bank of England who said labor force participation in Britain had fallen by around 1.3% across the entire population aged 16-64. He was prompted by a long-term illness, which the bank linked to COVID-19.

Brookings analysts have proposed five policy interventions to combat the problem: developing better treatments for long COVID and nasal vaccines that can prevent infection in the first place; improved sick leave for all workers, so they don’t show up with the virus and spread it; better employer accommodations for long-term COVID sufferers, where possible; broader access to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits as long as COVID patients can focus on improving their health; and better data collection, so that decision makers can understand the nature and extent of the problem.

Congress recently earmarked more than $1 billion for NIH long COVID research. NIH scientists say the problem could be due to prolonged inflammation in parts of the body after the acute infection subsided.

Prolonged inflammation from the coronavirus caused permanent damage to the lungs and kidneys, affected the brain, and was linked to behavioral changes in hamsters in an NIH-funded study by Drs. Benjamin tenOever at NYU Grossman School of Medicine and Venetia Zachariou at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Sen. Tim Kaine, Democrat of Virginia, said in March he was suffering from mild symptoms, including a tingling sensation in his nerves, two years after his coronavirus infection in the spring of 2020.

For more information, visit the Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

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