President Biden meeting with a group of people
President Biden meeting with a group of people in the oval office

Biden Orders More Research on Long COVID

A new presidential memorandum requires the Department of Health and Human Services to coordinate a government-wide push to generate a research action plan for the condition.

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Christie Wilcox

Christie joined The Scientist's team as newsletter editor in 2021, after more than a decade of science writing. She has a PhD in cell and molecular biology, and her debut book Venomous: How Earth’s Deadliest Creatures Mastered Biochemistry, received widespread acclaim.

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Apr 6, 2022

ABOVE: President Joe Biden meeting with members of the COVID-19 Task Force on February 16, 2022 Adam Schultz, Official White House Photo

Millions of Americans are experiencing the mysterious post–COVID-19 infection syndrome known as long COVID. President Joe Biden pledged Tuesday (April 5) in a presidential memorandum to increase support for patients, including bolstering insurance coverage and accelerating federal research into the underlying causes in the hopes of providing some relief.

“This is the first effort that truly comports with the needs of people who are suffering,” Diana Berrent, founder of the long COVID support group Survivor Corps, tells the Associated Press.

In the memorandum, Biden called on the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to “coordinate a new effort across the federal government to develop and issue the first-ever interagency national research action plan on Long COVID,” according to a White House fact sheet. The plan must include expanding the large NIH study already underway, and “will advance progress in prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and provision of services, supports, and interventions for individuals experiencing Long COVID and associated conditions,” the fact sheet says. The memorandum requires an HHS report in four months’ time that will detail the services and support available to those with long COVID, and directs federal agencies to provide doctors and patients with science-based best practices for treating the condition.

See “Studies Identify Risk Factors for Long COVID

The White House fact sheet also specifically uses disability terminology, stating that the “COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in new members of the disability community,” which the AP notes may mean patients are entitled to the specific federal protections afforded to people with disabilities.

Leana Wen, a physician who previously served as Baltimore health commissioner and later headed Planned Parenthood, tells the AP, “This is a very important move on the part of the Biden administration to acknowledge that long COVID is real, that it is a significant threat, and that much more needs to be done.” She adds, “The emphasis on treatment for long COVID, and recognizing that this could be a source of ongoing disability, are long overdue.”

See “Brain Fog Caused by Long COVID and Chemo Appear Similar

Other experts say more is needed. Ezekiel Emanuel, a University of Pennsylvania bioethicist who spearheaded recent recommendations for addressing the condition, tells The Washington Post that the move is “good step in the right direction . . . but it needs to be bigger and faster.”