During a White House COVID-19 briefing, Secretary Xavier Becerra discussed a new plan to accelerate support for people experiencing long-term effects of COVID-19, according to a news release.
Becerra stated, “When it comes to COVID, we have more tools than ever before to stay safe, from vaccines and boosters, to treatments and tests. All widely available at no cost to the American people thanks to our national COVID response over the past year.”
“But we also know that many people continue to feel the physical and the mental burden of this pandemic. We have to ensure that people with disabilities, older Americans, and people who are immunocompromised aren't left behind, and that they continue to have the tools and resources that they need to stay safe,” added Becerra. “We expanded coverage of free over-the-counter COVID tests to the tens of millions of Medicare beneficiaries. People with Medicare now have access each month to up to eight easy-to-use, at-home COVID-19 tests at no cost. This is all a part of our overall strategy to ensure access to tests free of charge.”
Becerra continued, by adding, “In the past year, we have more than tripled the number of sites where people can get COVID-19 tests for free and delivered close to 250 million free at-home, rapid tests to Americans who have ordered them.”
“President Biden has been clear; we must ensure that no one is left behind as we work to move forward in the fight against COVID-19. That also means taking on big and complex physical and mental health challenges caused by COVID.”
Americans of every age and background are experiencing Long COVID. Americans have experienced the loss of a loved one due to COVID, including over 200,000 children who've lost a parent or caregiver.
And Americans nationwide are grappling with mental health and substance-use challenges caused by or exacerbated by the pandemic.
“Let's be clear, Becerra said, “we are going to use every tool we have to be there for these Americans. We've made significant investments in mental healthcare, as well as substance-use prevention, treatment, and recovery support. That is especially important for people dealing with COVID and COVID-related loss.”
“We've launched efforts across the NIH, the CDC, and the Veterans Administration, including the landmark $1.1 billion recovery initiative, to better understand Long COVID and accelerate scientific progress.”
“And we are providing Americans experiencing Long COVID information about where they can access the resources and support they need, as well as helping them understand, if they have a disability, and educating them on their rights.”
Long COVID is real, and there is still so much we don't know about it. Millions of Americans may be struggling with lingering health effects, ranging from things that are easier to notice, like troubling -- trouble breathing or irregular heartbeat, to less apparent but potentially serious conditions related to the brain or mental health.
At the President's direction, the Department of Health and Human Services will be leading a government-wide response to Long COVID focused on three main goals: improving care services and other support for individuals with Long COVID; enhancing education and outreach among the public-private sector and the medical community; and advancing research to support both goals.
“And, of course, we'll collaborate with academic, industry, and state and local partners to better understand Long COVID,” Becerra continued.
“Through it all, we’ll continue to assess and highlight the long-term effects of COVID-19 on our hardest-hit and highest-risk communities, and make sure they receive the support they need.”
“To do this, we're launching the first-ever interagency national research agenda on Long COVID -- a National Research Action Plan.”
Becerra stated,” HHS will lead a government-wide interagency coordinating council, which will involve experts from the Department of Defense, Veterans Administration, the Labor Department, and many entities across government to coordinate both public- and private-sector work to advance our understanding of Long COVID and to accelerate efforts to prevent, detect, and treat it.”
“In real time, we will share lessons on how to prevent, detect, and treat Long COVID. And this coordinated effort will help ensure our research is being directed toward the people who need care the most.”
“And I'll end with this: We know the best way to prevent Long COVID is to prevent you from getting COVID in the first place. That's why it's so critical to get vaccinated and boosted, which is our best tools that we have to prevent COVID-19.”