Swathes of young people are still off work with self-reported long Covid and it is wreaking havoc on employers, an analysis suggests.
The study, published by New York’s largest workers’ compensation insurer, found 71 percent of people the fund classified as experiencing long Covid were unable to work for six months or more.
Almost a fifth (18 percent) still were not back at work a full year later, according to the data that covers the first two years of the pandemic. The analysis showed that the vast majority of these employees were under 60.
That finding is curious because long Covid predominantly strikes those who are severely ill with the virus during the initial infection – typically older and vulnerable people.
The vast majority of claimants – 83 percent – were essential workers, or, workers who were on the front lines of the pandemic early on such as healthcare workers and law enforcement
Most claimants who were designated to have long covid had to undergo continuous medical treatments outside of work, which could have affected productivity and employers’ bottom lines
The report from The New York State Insurance Fund said: ‘Long Covid is a public health crisis emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic. Like a pebble thrown into a pond, its impact ripples across all aspects of life in ways not yet fully understood.’
As long Covid continues to plague the American workforce, a team of researchers at Stanford University are set to test Pfizer’s landmark antiviral Paxlovid as a viable treatment for the condition.
Long covid is a condition that includes a wide range of symptoms such as shortness of breath, brain fog and fatigue, and depression that linger for weeks or even years after recuperating from the virus.
There is still serious debate about the true scale and severity of the condition, with several studies indicating that people who develop the condition would have suffered those common symptoms regardless of whether they got Covid or not.
The extent of long covid sufferers is murky, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in 13 US adults, or 7.5 percent, have long covid, defined as symptoms lasting three or more months after first contracting the virus.
In some instances, the condition was deadly. The CDC reported late last year that more than 3,500 Americans have died of a long-covid-related condition in the first two and a half years of the pandemic. Most of the documented deaths occurred in older adults, with those aged between 75 and 84 years old accounting for almost 30 percent of the deaths.
Today’s New York State Insurance Fund report looked at more than 3,100 workers comp claims paid out to employees between 2020 and 2022.
Researchers analyzed Covid-related claims filed between Jan. 1, 2020, and March 31, 2022, specifically those made by employees determined to have been infected while at work.
Over a year after contracting Covid, over 18 percent of workers who submitted covid claims still had not returned to work, according to the board’s report.
The vast majority of them – 78 percent – are under 60. And nearly three-quarters of claimants with long covid suffered symptoms that required treatment or kept them out of work for six months or more.
The report said: ‘The implications are far-reaching. Those who cannot return to work lose their income and employer-provided health insurance, and… the longer a claimant stays out of work, the less likely they are to return.
‘Being inexplicably sick and not working over a long span can stigmatize patients and be highly disruptive to their family and professional lives.’
The sum paid out to long covid patients was staggering. Of the total $20million spent on covid-related workers’ comp claims, a total $17million was paid for the 977 people the fund designated as having long Covid.
Disruptions to the workforce were commonplace during the pandemic’s first year of tearing across the US.
The public relied heavily on essential workers, including those in healthcare, law enforcement, and security services, so it should come as no surprise that over 80 percent of Covid-related claims were submitted by those workers on the front lines. A substantial 29 percent of workers whose claims were approved were found to have long-covid.
Long covid has become an umbrella term for a wide variety of health issues that continue to plague a person for weeks, months, or years after recuperating from the virus.
Scientists have only recently begun to get a handle on the long-term health effects of the coronavirus, which has cost people more than just money.
Efforts to beat back Covid caused economic upheaval in 2020 through much of 2021. New York was an early epicenter of the virus in 2020 resulting in mass work absences due to illness or because other needs cropped up such as finding childcare.
Though New York and other states have systems in place to protect people injured on the job, they are not immune to fraudulent activity.
Last year, New York State Inspector General Lucy Lang arrested a Staten Island man who was found guilty on 16 felony counts and seven midemeanor counts for grand larceny, insurance fraud, forgery, falsifying business records and workers’ compensation fraud.
Twenty-three year old Ajani Shaw was found guilty of submitting fake covid test results for five months to get workers’ compensation benefits.
A worker’s claim was fulfilled if the worker had a positive test and after a review board determined that the worker most likely was exposed to the virus on the job.
A case was regarded to be long Covid if, post-infection, a patient required medical treatment for 60 days or more or was absent 60 or more days from work.
What is long Covid?
Long Covid is an umbrella term to describe ongoing symptoms lasting at least three months since first diagnosis.
A dizzying array of symptoms have been attributed to long Covid, including:
- extreme tiredness (fatigue)
- shortness of breath
- chest pain or tightness
- problems with memory and concentration (‘brain fog’)
- difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
- heart palpitations
- pins and needles
- joint pain
- depression and anxiety
- tinnitus, earaches
- feeling sick, diarrhoea, stomach aches, loss of appetite
- a high temperature, cough, headaches, sore throat, changes to sense of smell or taste
There is no cure for the condition, which can be deadly. Roughly 3,500 people have died of long-covid-related conditions.
The CDC estimates that nearly eight percent of US adults are currently contenting with long covid.