The Economics (So Far) of Long COVID

And it’s not good (boldface mine):

The goal of the research was to estimate the prevalence and cost of Long COVID. Here are some of the key findings:

      22 million U.S. adults are living with Long Covid (LC) – close to 7 percent of the population.
    • 7 million are experiencing Disabling Long Covid (DLC) – 2.3 percent of the population.
    • As of January 2022, the cumulative cost of LC is estimated at more than $386 billion. (This estimate includes lost wages, lost savings, and medical expenses incurred by individuals. It does not include costs incurred by businesses or government agencies.)

…As staggering as these numbers are, we know they can’t be right, because they exclude the cases that weren’t officially reported by the CDC. To adjust for this undercounting, researchers used data from the CDC’s Community Seroprevalence Survey, which draws inferences about the level of prior infection by gathering information about the prevalence of antibodies in communities across the US. When you do this, the number of people suffering from Long COVID basically doubles.

…We are facing a mass disabling event. One way or another, it will impact all of us.

Women will be disproportionately burdened, as they leave the labor force to care for long haulers. The hardest hit will be those who were disproportionately impacted through the pandemic—black, indigenous, people of color. Employers will struggle to retain workers. In addition to the unimaginable toll this will take on tens of millions of our fellow Americans, there are implications for growth, productivity, inequality, etc.

In some respects, the pain we’re facing is already baked in. But there are things we can—and should—do to attenuate the human and economic dislocations that we know are coming.

President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda would have helped to fund some of the investments we so desperately need in care work. But, thanks to Sen. Manchin (D-WV), that isn’t happening. Heck, it isn’t even clear that Congress will continue to provide funding for vaccines and treatments.

For what it’s worth, the study assumed that one percent of vaccinated people get Disabling Long COVID:

The risk of disabling Long Covid from breakthrough infections is still unknown. For the purposes of this model, we are assuming that vaccination provides strong protection (90%) against severe long-term illness, giving vaccinated breakthrough cases a 1% chance of developing disabling Long Covid, compared to the 10% risk posed for unvaccinated cases. Recognizing this assumption represents a conservative estimate, time and further study will determine if vaccination proves to be so effective against Omicron.

In other words, these are conservative estimates. How this plays out in November is anyone’s guess, but having millions of disabled people who did what they were supposed to do by getting vaccinated and following official (if bad) advice doesn’t seem like a successful midterm election strategy.

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