Select Subcommittee Hearing Highlights Devastating Health and Economic Impacts of Long COVID

Jul 19, 2022
Press Release
Experts and impacted Americans urge further action to address challenges facing millions of Americans with the condition

Washington, D.C. (July 19, 2022) – Today, the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, chaired by Rep. James E. Clyburn, held a hearing on Long COVID and its public health and economic consequences, examining how employers and governments at all levels can collaborate to invest in research, provide high-quality care, and address the condition’s negative impacts on the American economy and health care system. 

“Since President Biden took office, daily coronavirus deaths have been reduced by 90 percent. The Administration’s comprehensive pandemic response has helped us to move beyond the crisis phase of the pandemic and focus on creating jobs, increasing wages, lowering costs, and taking other steps to help families emerge even stronger. Even as we celebrate these accomplishments and work to continue our progress, many Americans unfortunately continue to suffer from a condition known as Long COVID,” Chairman Clyburn said in his opening statement“Our nation’s scientists are working to develop methods to reliably diagnose Long COVID, and trials are underway to test new treatments. Today’s hearing provides an opportunity to learn how we can support these research initiatives, guide health care workers, inform the public about Long COVID, and provide support to affected Americans.” 

During the hearing, Chairman Clyburn also shared excerpts of a letter the Select Subcommittee received from Senator Tim Kaine, who wrote: “[F]or the last two years I have experienced near-constant nerve tingling which feels like every nerve ending in my body has had five cups of coffee. My symptoms are not debilitating, I can work and live my normal life. Yet, this tingling never goes away.” He added: “When I spoke out about my experience with long COVID, I heard from many with symptoms like brain fog, chronic fatigue, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, and more, which were much more severe and debilitating than my symptoms. Many who shared their long COVID stories with me felt that they were not being believed by the medical community or that their symptoms were being misdiagnosed and mischaracterized as anxiety or depression. That is when I knew it was important to share my story publicly and hear from more constituents with lingering symptoms.”

The witnesses during today’s hearing were: Monica Verduzco-Gutierrez, M.D., Professor and Chair, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Texas Health San Antonio; Katie Bach, Former Managing Director, Good Jobs Institute; Hannah Davis; Co-founder, Patient-Led Research Collaborative; and Cynthia Adinig, Long COVID patient and advocate.

Experts and impacted Americans provided the following additional testimony:

While More Research Is Needed, Long COVID Is Affecting Millions of Americans, and Its Economic and Public Health Consequences Will Likely Be Drastic and Lasting.

  • Dr. Verduzco-Gutierrez, who founded the Post-COVID Recovery Clinic at UT Health, testified that Long COVID is “impacting millions of Americans,” explaining that Long COVID affects people “no matter the variant” they contracted, “no matter the severity” of the symptoms of their initial COVID-19 infection, and “no matter the age or prior health of the patient.” She said that living with Long COVID has been “a full-time job” for some of her patients.
  • Ms. Bach said that Long COVID may result in “a number of people out of work that is equivalent to 2.3% of the entire American employee population.” She added, “just the lost earnings of the long-haulers is about $230 billion a year given the U.S. average wage,” and also explained that “there is essentially no way this could not have a significant impact on the economy.”
  • Ms. Bach testified that the economic costs of Long COVID also include “lower productivity of people working while they’re ill, significant healthcare costs incurred by patients, and the lost productivity of caretakers.”

Long COVID Likely Disparately Affects Women, Black and Hispanic Americans, and Those with Disabilities.

  • Dr. Verduzco-Gutierrez said that “the most vulnerable with the most barriers to access to care will be at increased risk of disability and poor outcomes” from Long COVID. 
  • Ms. Adinig, a Black woman who has been suffering from Long COVID since May 2020, testified that doctors often did not believe her Long COVID symptoms and instead “tested [her] for illicit drug use three times.” 
  • In response to a question from Rep. Ayanna Pressley about how her experience with Long COVID would have been different had she been initially treated by culturally competent medical providers, Ms. Adinig responded she believes that she “would’ve avoided so much suffering, so much trauma to myself and my son.”
  • Ms. Bach explained that, in terms of economic consequences, “[t]he burden on the most vulnerable workers, is, as it often is, the heaviest” because of, among other things, “disproportionate exposure to COVID in the early days of the pandemic when many of these low-wage workers were classed as essential workers.” 

We Must Overcome Barriers to Care to Support Americans Impacted by Long COVID.

  • Dr. Verduzco-Gutierrez testified that the “multidisciplinary, organized care” offered by Long COVID clinics is vital to patients suffering from Long COVID. Dr. Verduzco-Gutierrez acknowledged that accessing these clinics can be difficult, expensive, and “a barrier for many.” She stated that “Congressional action is needed to ensure that individuals with Long COVID can access the care they need.”
  • Ms. Davis concurred that “Long COVID clinics are extremely necessary,” but that “the vast majority of patients who can’t get into these clinics are socioeconomically disadvantaged patients and women.” She explained that many struggling with Long COVID often cannot access these clinics without health insurance or proof of a prior coronavirus infection, “causing a huge bias in terms of health care” with “ongoing implications for research.” 
  • Ms. Davis recommended “immediate actions” to support impacted Americans, such as steps to “expand and improve clinical care,” “fund current post-viral experts and let them lead Long COVID research,” “expedite and fund clinical trials,” and prevent transmission through “widespread ventilation.”
  • Ms. Bach testified that it is crucial for employers to “be made aware that long COVID is covered under the ADA” and “see examples of what long COVID accommodations can look like in various industries.” Ms. Bach also explained that doing this would benefit workers and employers alike, stating that employers who provided such accommodations would “absolutely” see a productivity boost “because it lets you hold on to workers.”

Chairman Clyburn said in his closing remarks: Vaccination is crucial in preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death from the coronavirus. As we have heard today, it may also prevent symptoms of Long COVID. I urge all Americans who aren’t currently up to date on their coronavirus vaccinations to get vaccinated and boosted as soon as possible.”

Click here to read the Chairman’s opening statement in full.

Click here to watch the full hearing and read written testimonies.

Click here to read letter the Select Subcommittee received from Senator Tim Kaine in full.


117th Congress