The Biden administration announced plans Tuesday to create a national research action plan that could provide answers to public health officials trying to diagnose and treat so-called long COVID-19.
The illness that lasts for months and possibly even years has so far confounded doctors trying to figure out exactly why some people are left with life-changing symptoms after fighting off the initial illness.
The new initiative — designed to provide guidance on diagnosis, treatment and support — will be run out of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, but will include several other federal stakeholders, according to the White House.
A memo President Joe Biden signed Tuesday also directs HHS to “issue a report outlining services and supports across federal agencies to assist people experiencing Long COVID, individuals who are dealing with a COVID-related loss, and people who are experiencing mental health and substance use issues related to the pandemic.”
The Biden administration said it would work to expand and strengthen 18 facilities the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has set up to address long COVID-19.
The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, the White House said, would create a project “to gain insights into the experiences and patient journeys of people living with Long COVID and associated conditions, to help inform high-quality care and contribute to standardized best practices at Long COVID clinics.”
Part of the new initiative will focus on explaining the types of services the federal government makes available to people with disabilities, if people experiencing long COVID-19 fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act or other federal laws such as the Affordable Care Act.
“Individuals with Long COVID may need help doing things they did by themselves in the past, or may need accommodations in their daily activities based on changes in their abilities,” the White House said in a fact sheet.
The White House also plans to increase the number of people included in the National Institute of Health’s $1.15 billion Long COVID-19 research project to 40,000.
The Biden administration said those people will span “all ages, races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic statuses — including pregnant people, individuals with disabilities, and those from the communities hardest hit by the pandemic.”