Long Covid keeps significant number of people out of work, study finds
Katie Bach, a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who was not involved in the report, said the study showed that “we have a group of people who have had Covid for a long time and have not been in it at least until now Were able to get back to work, and it’s a non-trivial number of people.”
She said the report only reflected part of the workforce: employees who are exposed to the virus in the workplace and who are knowledgeable about workers’ compensation to make claims. It could include employees who are younger or sicker than the entire workforce while other long-Covid workers are also absent, said Ms Bach, whose own research suggests about 500,000 people in the United States are currently off work due to long-Covid.
The New York report also found some bullish signals. Since the first wave of the pandemic in early 2020, long Covid cases have declined as a percentage of workers’ compensation claims and Covid-related claims. The decline has coincided with the advent of vaccines, which studies say reduce the risk of a long covid, and new coronavirus treatments that support the idea that people who can avoid becoming seriously ill from their initial infection are less likely to get it long-term get sick symptoms.
Still, Mr Vasisht said the agency was still receiving claims for long-Covid workers, especially after a spike in infections. The report also suggested that more staff than the data indicated may have met the criteria for long Covid claims. The vast majority of all Covid-related claims, over 83 per cent, have been made by essential workers – in jobs such as healthcare, law enforcement and security. But only 29 per cent of their claims met the long Covid definition, while 44 per cent of non-essential workers met that definition.
That could be because “essential workers may not have been able to stay home from work beyond the required quarantine period,” the report said. And healthcare workers may have “self-treated their symptoms” rather than seek medical care, the report said, adding “essential workers may have long-term rates of Covid that are higher than the data suggests,” he said creates a blind spot for policy makers”.
“Many people can’t afford not to work and so they work when they shouldn’t and continue to work while they’re sick,” Ms Bach said. She said the experience of people with similar post-viral conditions, such as myalgic encephalomyelitis and chronic fatigue syndrome, suggests some people working despite their long Covid may have more difficult recoveries. “If people with a condition whose hallmark symptoms are fatigue and brain fog go to work, they won’t be as productive and they likely reduce their chances of getting better,” she said.