We Cannot Turn Our Backs on Vermonters Struggling with Long Covid

Dear Fellow Vermonter,

As all of us know too well, the COVID-19 pandemic was the worst public health crisis in more than a century. Since the first cases four years ago, well over 100 million Americans have gotten the virus, more than 6.7 million Americans have been hospitalized, and more than 1 million Americans have died. 

More Americans have died from COVID than were killed during World War II.

The pandemic also created the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, disrupted the education of our young people, and increased isolation, anxiety and mental illness.

To say the very least, COVID has tested our patience. We all want to be done with this virus. Unfortunately, the virus is not done with us.

Let me be clear: It is absolutely true that cases, deaths, and hospitalizations are substantially lower than they were during the height of the pandemic.

But what is also true, and what we cannot sweep under the rug, is that at least 1,000 Americans still die from COVID every week and there is a hidden public health crisis in America that we can no longer ignore. And that is the crisis of long COVID.

Millions are suffering from long COVID. We don't know why.

In Vermont today more than 25,500 people are suffering from long COVID. Across America, about 16 million people have long COVID. It affects people of all ages and from all backgrounds.

Perhaps the scariest part of this is that we don’t know why.

Long COVID can include more than 200 symptoms – including serious cognitive impairment − that might continue for weeks, months or even years after the initial infection.

People with long COVID experience a variety of chronic symptoms, from extreme fatigue, trouble sleeping, migraines, and “brain fog” to more severe cardiovascular and neurological challenges. These symptoms are not minor inconveniences. They are debilitating conditions that affect the ability of people to work, care for their families, and live full lives.

And the impact of long COVID is not just a health issue. It’s an economic one as well. It’s estimated that as many as 4 million Americans are out of work due to long COVID. The annual cost of those lost wages alone is about $170 billion a year.

We must address this crisis so that everyone can get the health care they need.

As the chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, I will be doing everything I can to address this crisis with the sense of urgency that it demands. Last week, I led a hearing on long COVID and heard directly from experts and people struggling with this themselves. There is a lot that we still have to learn about this issue. But a few things are clear: 



First, far too many patients have struggled to get their symptoms taken seriously and far too many medical professionals have either dismissed or misdiagnosed their serious health problems. Patients are forced to navigate a dysfunctional health care system that is too confusing and too expensive, with no real answers. This should not be happening in the United States of America. 

Second, we must sustain our investment into long COVID research. We need to understand why some people get it and others do not. We must also be aggressive in pursuing potential treatments and cures. We can no longer tolerate patients trying to address their symptoms without any guidance on effective therapies from our nation’s public health professionals. 

Third, and critically, as treatments are developed, patients must be able to afford them. No one who needs Paxlovid should go without because they cannot afford it. Good health should not be a luxury.

Fourth, we need to do a much better job educating about the benefits of keeping up-to-date on vaccines, wearing masks when appropriate, and taking rapid tests for those who are feeling sick. The best way to avoid getting long COVID is to prevent people from getting the disease in the first place.

And, finally, we need to address the broader social and economic issues that this pandemic made so evident. Because of the pandemic, Americans all across the political spectrum now understand: Health care should not be a privilege tied to employment or income. When a worker loses a job they should NEVER, under any circumstance, lose their health care. It is a system designed only to make huge profits for the insurance industry and drug companies, while ignoring the needs of ordinary Americans.

The pandemic made this simple truth more clear than perhaps ever before: The time is long overdue to join every major country on earth and guarantee health care as a fundamental human right for all, not a privilege for the wealthy few. 

Bottom line is this. We cannot turn our backs on Vermonters and people across our country who are living with long COVID. Or the millions more who may contract it in the future. We must stand with them and address this crisis together.







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