President Joe Biden on Tuesday issued a memorandum directing the secretary of Health and Human Services to coordinate and speed efforts to understand and treat long COVID, which is estimated to affect up to 23 million Americans.
In a White House press briefing Tuesday, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said the administration’s plan has three main goals: to improve care and support for long COVID patients, enhance education and outreach on long COVID and disability services, and step up research on causes and evidence-based treatments.
“Long COVID is real,” Becerra said, “and there’s still so much we don’t know about it. Millions of Americans may be struggling with lingering health effects, ranging from things that are easier to notice—like trouble breathing or irregular heartbeat—to less apparent, but potentially serious conditions related to the brain or mental health.”
According to a fact sheet released by the White House, the plans specifically include speeding enrollment of a $1.15 billion study already underway by the National Institutes of Health, which aims to include 40,000 people with the long-term condition. The administration also plans to request an additional $25 million for what is currently a $50 million effort by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study the risk factors, mechanisms, and impacts of long COVID.
In terms of clinical care, the plan will also expand a nationwide network of long COVID care programs currently run by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The programs are already providing guidance for standardized best practices for long COVID clinics. The plan also calls for $20 million in funding to help health care systems develop their own care models, providing telementoring and consultations on the latest best practices.
“We’re determined… to not leave anyone behind. And that includes our loved ones suffering from long COVID and related conditions,” Becerra said. “We see you, we’re focused on you, and we are committed to advancing our nation’s capacity to understand and treat your conditions.” He ended by noting that “we know the best way to prevent long COVID is to prevent you from getting COVID in the first place.” He encouraged everyone to get vaccinated and boosted if they have not yet done so.