U.S. Senator Tim Kaine is all too familiar with the harrowing effects of Long COVID. And on Wednesday, the Virginia Democrat introduced legislation to help other Americans struggling with the same mysterious illness.
Kaine was diagnosed with COVID-19 nearly two years ago, but still suffers from moderate symptoms. And he’s not alone. Thousands, potentially millions, of Americans have continued to cope with health concerns long after infection. Because more research is needed and diagnoses remain inconsistent, it’s hard to gauge just how many people are plagued by lingering effects of the virus.
The Comprehensive Access to Resources and Education (CARE) for Long COVID Act is Kaine’s solution. The bill, co-sponsored by Democratic Senators Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Ed Markey of Massachusetts, aims to expand Long COVID research and improve access to treatment.
“As someone with mild Long COVID symptoms, I am glad to introduce this legislation to help address the lingering effects of the coronavirus,” Kaine said in a statement. “This legislation will help improve our understanding of and response to Long COVID by expanding resources for those dealing with the long-term impacts of the virus.”
Long COVID still poses many unknowns. Researchers have yet to determine what causes it and symptoms can vary drastically among patients. Even those who initially did not fall seriously ill with the coronavirus, have reported problems weeks, even months, after infection. People have reported symptoms that range from cardiovascular problems to neurological effects, including so-called brain fog. Others have struggled with joint pain or prolonged fatigue.
If passed, the bill would create a centralized patient registry of confirmed Long COVID cases in order to identify common data elements and collect a swath of information about symptoms and experiences. Findings from the registry would be shared with other agencies to better inform treatment and policy related to Long COVID and other chronic illnesses.
Other highlights of the bill include a push to educate employers and schools on the impact of Long COVID as it relates to employment and disability rights. It would also create partnerships with community-based health organizations in order to expand access to treatment.
The senators’ announcement comes just one day after President Joe Biden unveiled his plan for confronting the next phase of the pandemic during Tuesday’s State of the Union address.
“We will be there to support Americans with the long-term impacts of COVID-19, including people experiencing Long COVID or mental and behavioral health challenges; as well as families suffering from the tragedy of losing someone they loved,” the Biden administration’s Pandemic Preparedness Plan promises.
Markey, who is co-sponsoring the bill, was one of the few masked attendees during Biden’s speech at the Capitol on Tuesday night. The mask requirement was dropped just days before the joint session of Congress and most lawmakers chose to embrace the change.
“As Covid safety precautions ease and cases drop, people are understandably eager to move on from the pandemic. But millions of Americans will not be able to move on as they suffer the devastating impacts of Long Covid. We cannot leave them behind,” Markey wrote on Twitter after the bill was announced.