Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Zack Miller – Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) – Confronting the enduring shadow of the pandemic, President Joe Biden on Tuesday ordered a new national study of the long-running COVID-19, and directs federal agencies to support patients dealing with the mysterious and debilitating condition.
The White House said Biden had instructed the Department of Health and Human Services to coordinate an urgent new initiative at federal agencies, building on research already underway at the National Institutes of Health.
Biden has also directed federal agencies to support patients and physicians by providing science-based best practices for treating long-term COVID, maintaining access to insurance coverage and protecting workers ’rights when they try to return to work, tackling the uncertainty of ailments.
Long COVID is a general term for hydra symptoms which may include brain fog, intermittent shortness of breath, pain and fatigue. It is estimated to affect up to 1 in 3 people who are cured of COVID-19, although the severity and duration of symptoms vary. Despite intensive investigation, the reasons for the long-term COVID-19 are not yet clear, and treatment is largely aimed at helping patients cope with their symptoms as they try to balance their daily routine.
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The White House also recognized that long-term COVID seems to be a disability, meaning that patients may be entitled to protection by federal laws that prohibit discrimination on health grounds and seek to create ways to lead productive lives.
“The administration acknowledges that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to the emergence of new members of the disability community and has had a huge impact on people with disabilities,” the White House said in a statement.
Some independent experts praised the Biden administration for a comprehensive plan to meet the emerging need, but noted the lack of deadlines to achieve results.
“This is a very important step on the part of the Biden administration to recognize that the long-term COVID is a real one, that it is a significant threat, and that much remains to be done,” said Dr. Liana Wen, former Baltimore Health Commissioner. and a pandemic commentator. “The emphasis on treating long-term COVID-19 and recognizing that it may be a source of long-term disability is long overdue.”
The famous defender of patients with COVID felt a breakthrough.
“This is the first attempt that truly meets the needs of people who are suffering,” said Diana Burrent, founder of Survivor Corps, a support group that connects patients with public and private researchers.
Proponents are pushing for “the government to set up a command center for a long-term COVID,” she added. “So far this has not existed.”
“I see it as a global, integrated approach to an extremely painful issue that used to take a separate approach,” Burrent said.
Medical research has so far led to theories about what causes long COVID, but not one root. One theory revolves around a lingering infection or virus residue that can cause inflammation in the body. Another possibility involves reactions of the autoimmune system that mistakenly attack normal cells. Researchers are also investigating the role of tiny clots.
The White House said Biden’s order would be expanded to be based on a $ 1 billion research study already underway at the NIH called the “RECOVERY Initiative.” One goal is to speed up the enrollment of 40,000 people with and without long-term COVID-19. Around these efforts, health and social services will coordinate a nationwide research plan on long-term COVID.
Treatment is another important task. A division of HHS called the Agency for Health Research and Quality will research best practices and get helpful advice for doctors, hospitals and patients. The Department of Veterans Affairs, which already has 18 institutions with long-running COVID programs, will serve as an incubator for ideas and strategies to combat the disease.
Finally, the administration said its plan would provide direct support to patients by providing access to insurance coverage and extending the scope of civil rights protection to people with long-term COVID. In line with Biden’s focus on reducing racial and ethnic disparities in health care, part of the focus will be on minority communities that have suffered great damage from COVID-19.
Federal health programs, which can serve as a model for private insurance, will look for ways to make sure long-term COVID treatment is covered and paid for. “The administration is working to make long-term COVID assistance as accessible as possible,” the White House said in a review of Biden’s plan.
AP medical writer Lindsay Tanner contributed to this report.
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