A new Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) report suggests the need for masking and social distancing mandates to protect people from "long COVID."
Long COVID lacks a specific definition, but generally covers signs, symptoms, and conditions that continue or develop after initial infection.
The HHS report, produced by research agency Coforma and released Monday, calls for a broad range of government policies to help people who continue to deal with the lingering effects of COVID.
One short-term recommendation for the general public is: "Encourage or mandate policies and protocols regarding masking and social distancing in public spaces that protect people from infection or reinfection and possible Long COVID."
The report maintains that ending the mask mandate in late 2021 and 2022 is making it harder for people with long COVID.
"Many people with Long COVID avoid public spaces and events due to a fear of reinfection and the potential worsening of their Long COVID symptoms and health impacts. Some may experience PTSD symptoms as a result of trauma they incurred during their acute infection," the report said.
"The lifting of mask mandates and indifferent attitude towards masking and social distancing typical in many public and private places further isolates people with Long COVID."
The HHS report also called for a governmental awareness campaign, vaccine promotion, funding for Long COVID support groups, financial support for students and workers, and new health benefits for COVID victims.
Although President Joe Biden said in September the pandemic was over, his administration last week asked Congress for $9.25 billion to fight COVID.
"Up to 20% of survivors — or 16 million Americans and growing — develop Long COVID symptoms," according to HHS. "Research has shown a Long COVID condition can last weeks or months, affecting all ages, backgrounds, and demographics.
"Previously healthy individuals may become disabled while others heal. Researchers are working quickly to better understand this multi-systemic, multi-faceted disease."
Researchers have cataloged more than 50 conditions linked to long COVID that impact nearly every organ system, according to HHS.
"Estimates vary, but research suggests that between 5% and 30% of those who had COVID-19 may have Long COVID symptoms, and roughly one million people are out of the workforce at any given time due to Long COVID," HHS said, announcing the report. "This figure equates to approximately $50 billion annually in lost salaries."
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