The Covid-19 pandemic has had many residual effects on society and the world as a whole. The phenomenon referred to as “long Covid” is one of these effects, and has been present in the media for the past few months. 

“Long Covid” (also known as “post-Covid”) is a medical condition that some people who are infected with Covid-19 have. It can last for up to a year; symptoms often include extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, hair loss, joint pain and a fast-beating heart. There are sometimes other, more specific symptoms as well, including parosmia, blood clotting and pulmonary issues. 

Researchers have been studying long Covid to provide  more effective treatments to those suffering from it. But there still isn’t a strong enough treatment to completely rid people of their symptoms. This has led people to have to deal with them until they subside on their own.

This has subsequently had a major impact on the American workforce. According to a new analysis of workers’ compensation claims in New York, a large number of employees are prevented from returning to work due to “long Covid”–some end up needing medical care for a good period after returning to their jobs. 

The study found that during the first two years of the pandemic, about 71 percent of people classified as experiencing long Covid either required continuous medical treatment or were unable to work for at least six months. The New York State Insurance Fund wrote in a report that “Long Covid has harmed the workforce” and that the findings of the study “highlight long Covid as an underappreciated yet important reason for the many unfilled jobs and declining labor participation rate in the economy, and they presage a possible reduction in productivity as employers feel the strains of an increasingly sick workforce.”

Approximately 18 percent of the “long Covid” patients in the study still hadn’t returned to work over a year after their initial Covid-19 infection; more than 75 percent of them were under the age of 60. Outside of the study, there are numerous other Covid patients who could be out of work because of “long Covid”. Katie Bach, a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, has done research suggesting that about 500,000 people in the United States are currently out of work because of “long Covid”, “The New York Times” reported. 

It’s also important to emphasize that the report doesn’t  necessarily account for the people who went back to work without seeking medical attention. Co-author of the report, Gaurav Vasisht, told the “Times” that, “It’s not capturing people who may have gone back to work and didn’t seek medical attention and may still be suffering, so you know, they’re just toughing it out.”

The New York report also discovered some more positive findings. According to the report, since the first wave of the pandemic in early 2020, “long Covid” cases have decreased as a percentage of workers’ compensation and COVID-related claims. This decrease coincided with the development of the COVID-19 vaccines, which are suspected to reduce the risk of long COVID infection.

However, it’s important to note that new claims are filed with heightened amounts of claims after infection surges. Also, with the report not accounting for all people who went back to work without receiving medical care for their long COVID symptoms, the report suggests that many of these people that are not reflected in the report are likely essential workers. A whopping 83 percent of COVID claims  came from essential workers, but only 29 percent of their claims met the criteria for long COVID.

The report says that this could be because “essential workers might not have been able to stay home from work beyond the required quarantine period.” It adds that “essential workers may have long Covid rates higher than the data suggests, creating a blind spot for policymakers.” This is most likely because many essential workers cannot afford not to work, so they go despite being sick. 

Overall, the study findings and other data suggest that “long Covid” is a condition that needs to be addressed and brought to light. Although COVID may seem like it’s finally coming to an end, COVID is still ahead of us.