— Action plan has merit, but condition needs its own Operation Warp Speed, advocates say

by Shannon Firth

More than 2 years after patients started reporting long-lasting symptoms after acute SARS-CoV-2 infection, the U.S. announced its national long COVID plan.

The National Research Action Plan on Long COVID aims to improve prevention, diagnosis, and treatment for long COVID, which currently affects up to 23 million people in the U.S., about 1 million of whom may be out of the workforce at any given time because of the condition, according to Admiral Rachel Levine, MD, HHS assistant secretary for health.

As the long COVID coordinator, a role formalized with the announcement of a new Office of Long COVID Research and Practice, Levine is responsible for implementing the plan and overseeing the work of multiple government agencies, through the Long COVID Coordination Council.

Long COVID accounts for “many potentially overlapping entities, likely with different biological causes and different sets of risk factors and outcomes,” Levine said in an interview with Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, PhD, MD, MAS, JAMA editor-in-chief.

As a spectrum of conditions, long COVID can affect “nearly every organ system and can manifest as new-onset chronic disease such as heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, hematologic disorders, neurologic conditions, and mental health disorders,” Levine wrote in a JAMA editorial.

“The take-home message is that long COVID is real,” she said.

The federal action plan covers seven key areas of research: long COVID’s clinical spectrum and diagnosis, pathophysiology, surveillance and epidemiology, patient wellbeing, therapeutics and interventions, human services and supports, and health services and economics research.

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