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Kaine, Beyer propose bill to fund long COVID research and support

A person wearing a brown sport coat speaks
Crixell Matthews
VPM News File
Sen. Tim Kaine speaks at a 2022 event hosted by Chamber RVA.

Two Virginia politicians are renewing a push to set aside federal resources for Americans suffering from long COVID-19 and for research into the condition. The disease affects roughly 1 in 20 Virginians as recently as February, according to recent data.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th) are proposing The Comprehensive Access to Resources and Education for Long COVID Act, which would order the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to compile and study data on long COVID patients, as well as the efficacy of long-haul treatments.

The bill would also require the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other government agencies to conduct public education programs on the condition’s common symptoms and treatment options. It would also attempt to connect patients with local organizations and legal assistance to advocate for a disability diagnosis.

“For some, long COVID can last weeks or months,” Kaine said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “For others like me, long COVID has now lasted for 3 years.”

Researchers are still learning about long COVID’s spread, symptoms, relationship with vaccines and treatment options. But data shows that the condition is widespread. Kaine said the CARE for Long COVID Act would accelerate research.

He referenced a February 2023 survey from the National Center for Health Statistics showing that 27.4% of all American adults who had COVID-19 experienced symptoms for at least three months after their illness. Another analysis of 194 studies, mostly from Europe and Asia, found that 45% of studied COVID-19 patients had long COVID symptoms four months after initial infection.

Research shows the symptoms of the condition are wide-ranging and can be debilitating. Fatigue, difficulty thinking, muscle soreness, heart palpitations, chest pain and depression are all considered symptoms. For Kaine, he said they’ve been manageable.

“I noticed one day that my nerve endings turned on like a light switch was flipped and all of them started to tingle like my skin had been dipped in an Alka-Seltzer,” Kaine said. “24/7, every nerve ending in my body. It has not gone away in 3 years.”

For one-quarter of Americans who currently have long COVID, the symptoms have been debilitating, according to the February NCHS survey.

The push comes as the nationwide COVID-19 state of emergency winds down; HHS expects the emergency declaration will end on May 11.

“We can’t forget millions of people who are dealing with this issue,” Kaine said.

Kaine introduced a similar piece of legislation in March 2022, which was left in committee without a vote. If passed, it would authorize HHS, CDC and other organizations to spend up to $475 million on the programs beginning in fiscal year 2024.

The House version of the bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Jack Bergman (R-MI).

Patrick Larsen is VPM News' environment and energy reporter, and fill-in host.
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