Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.), joined by fellow Democratic Senators Ed Markey (Mass.) and Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), has introduced the CARE for Long COVID Act, legislation to help Americans living with long-COVID symptoms long after first testing positive.
“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,” Kaine said. “As a member of the Senate [Senate Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions] Committee, I will continue working to ensure greater access to critical tools to keep our communities healthy and safe.”
Kaine stressed that long-COVID, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes is characterized by numerous symptoms including difficulty breathing or shortness of breath; tiredness or fatigue; chest or stomach pain; joint or muscle pain; mood changes; fever; change in smell or taste; and even a pins-and-needles feeling, risks straining our already fragile healthcare system further.
“That’s going to put a burden on our health-care system,” Kaine said in an interview with The Washington Post. “It’s also going to require some research and some understanding, compassion, for people dealing with these symptoms — adjustments and accommodations in the workplace. There’s going to be a lot of consequences of this.”
The Virginia senator also described his own experience with long-COVID, saying he has continued to experience symptoms since first testing positive for COVID antibodies and showing evidence of a prior infection in May 2020. He first came down with symptoms in March 2020.
“I tell people it feels like all my nerves have had like five cups of coffee,” Kaine said, noting that he is dealing with a “24/7” tingling sensation. Kaine said that his body has never felt the same despite seeing doctors, having an MRI, and being told that everything is fine.
“I know how my body felt before I got COVID, I know how it felt when I got COVID, and it’s not gone back to where it was before,” he said. “That gives me an understanding for people who talk about these long COVID symptoms.”
Not a lot is known about people who have long COVID-19 and the majority of long haulers test negative for the virus. However, among the more common theories is that the virus remains in some people’s bodies in a small form. Another theory suggests that the virus continues to impact the immune system, which overreacts long after the infection has passed.
“Health care providers don’t know how many of these symptoms are permanent, or if there is permanent damage being done,” note researchers at UC Davis Health.
“Some patients who have been seriously ill from COVID-19 develop acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), which can permanently scar their lungs. But it’s not clear if there is any scarring for long-haulers who have respiratory issues but not at the severe level of ARDS. Other patients with long-term loss of smell and taste worry about permanent damage, too. Experts believe that the loss of smell and taste won’t be permanent. For most people, there will likely be resolution, but there isn’t a clear answer as to how long this will take.”
Alan is a writer, editor, and news junkie based in New York.