By Tamsin Zandstra
This piece has been informed by an interview with David Cutler, Otto Eckstein Professor of Applied Economics at Harvard University.
Recently we posted an article about how Long Covid affects employees and employers. As issues around Long Covid and the workforce continuously emerge, we plan to provide updates to keep the community in the know about the latest data and conversations on this topic. In this post we’ve provide a brief review of recent studies estimating the impact on the labor shortage.
As awareness about Long COVID increases, lawmakers are beginning to propose legislation to increase funding for research and resources for Long COVID. Here are a few examples of recent legislation that has been introduced.
This blog post has been updated to include two reports from August 2022.
On May 24th, Annals of Internal Medicine published a widely debated study on Post-Acute Sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC). This study, sponsored by the RECOVER COVID Initiative, enrolled 189 people with lab-confirmed COVID and compared them with 120 controls, people never infected with COVID. This study demonstrated that persistent symptoms after COVID were common, but that abnormal findings on physical examination or diagnostic testing were uncommon. Another key finding of this study was that women and those with a history of anxiety were at increased risk for PASC. However, these headlines do not tell the whole story and, in fact, may serve to frustrate many Long COVID patients.
Workers’ compensation provides medical and monetary benefits for a percentage of lost wages to employees who become sick or injured on the job. The details and regulations vary widely between states; however, workers must typically prove their injury or illness occurred during the course of their employment. For certain illnesses, including COVID-19, this can be particularly challenging.
A new term – medium COVID – has emerged that may add further nuance to Long COVID diagnoses. As the pandemic has progressed, scientists have realized that Long COVID, which was developed in the early stages of the pandemic to broadly encompass the experience of lingering COVID symptoms past the point of what could be considered the acute infection, may be a more complicated diagnosis than originally expected.
Months after the first onset of Lauren Nichols’ Covid-19 symptoms in March of 2020, she still had a laundry list of maladies that seemed to grow by the day: constant migraines, histamine rashes, reproductive issues, fevers, vertigo, and gastrointestinal problems so severe that some days she couldn’t even keep water down. Her neurological issues were so intense that one day, she says she was trapped inside of her shower because she couldn’t remember what the door handle was. Other days, she forgot what her hands were.
Although there is limited data to measure the impact of Long Covid on mental health, studies are emerging particularly around anxiety and depression, which are among the most common mental health diagnoses for Long Covid patients.
Anyone who has had Covid-19 can potentially become a Long Covid patient, even individuals who had mild cases. As a result, employees affected by Long Covid could become one of the largest groups of employees requiring accommodations and inquiring about disability insurance.
Long COVID cases in the workforce — and what employers should be doing about it (Blog post and Commentary Paper from Sedgwick)