Long Covid keeping as many as 4 million Americans out of work

Report says US economy recording $170 billion in lost wages annually over absence of those with the lingering illness

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Between two to four million US citizens are unable to work due to long Covid, revealing the impact of the lingering disease, a new report by the Brookings Institution has said.

The new numbers are an increase from the think tank's January report that estimated 1.6 million full-time workers were left out of the US economy because of their struggle with long Covid.

Their absence from the economy could represent a chunk of the country's labour shortage, and account for at least $170 billion in lost wages annually.

"Long Covid is already a meaningful drag on US economic performance and household financial health. And absent intervention, the situation is likely to worsen," Brookings non-resident senior fellow Katie Bach wrote.

Long Covid is characterised by symptoms that linger for months, if not years, after the initial infection.

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention say long Covid might include constant fatigue, respiratory and heart issues, changes in smell and taste, and neurological symptoms like "brain fog".

Some report symptoms akin to what people with ME/CFS (myalgic encephalomyelitis and chronic fatigue syndrome) experience, which entails extreme tiredness after physical or mental activity, making it difficult to perform normal tasks.

Brookings estimates at least 16 million Americans aged 18 to 65 years old are suffering from long Covid.

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The US is not the only country to have felt long Covid's impact on its economy. Research by the UK's Institute for Fiscal Studies in July found that around 110,000 British workers are not working as a result.

More than a million people in the US have died with Covid-19, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, and at least 93 million people in the country have been infected. It is estimated that between 10 to 30 per cent sickened by the coronavirus will or have come down with long Covid.

The US Department of Health and Human Services issued guidance in July last year on recognising the lingering illness as a disability, and President Joe Biden at the time said Americans with long Covid could get federal disability assistance as a result.

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Updated: August 25, 2022, 8:35 PM
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