Large numbers of young people are still out of work with self-reported prolonged Covid and it is wreaking havoc on employers, an analysis suggests.
The study, published by New York’s largest workers’ compensation insurer, found that 71 percent of people the fund classified as experiencing prolonged Covid were unable to work for six months or more.
Nearly a fifth (18 percent) still had not returned to work a year later, according to data covering the first two years of the pandemic. The analysis showed that the vast majority of these employees were under the age of 60.
That finding is curious because prolonged covid predominantly affects those who are severely ill with the virus during the initial infection, usually older and vulnerable people.
The vast majority of the claimants, 83 percent, were essential workers or workers who were on the front lines of the pandemic from the beginning, such as health care workers and law enforcement.
Most of the claimants who were designated as having covid for a long time had to undergo ongoing medical treatments outside of work, which could have affected employers’ productivity and bottom line.
The New York State Insurance Fund report said: ‘The long covid is a public health crisis arising from the covid-19 pandemic. Like a pebble thrown into a pond, its impact affects all aspects of life in ways not yet fully understood.’
As Covid continues to plague the American workforce, a team of Stanford University researchers is ready 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, mental confusion and fatigue, and depression that persist for weeks or even years after recovering 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 from those common symptoms regardless of whether or not they contracted Covid.
The scope of long-term covid sufferers is murky, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in 13 American adultsor 7.5 percent, have long-term covid, defined as symptoms that last three or more months after first contracting the virus.
In some cases, the condition was fatal. The CDC reported late last year that more than 3,500 Americans have died from a long-standing Covid-related condition in the first two and a half years of the pandemic. Most of the documented deaths occurred in older adults, with people ages 75 to 84 accounting for nearly 30 percent of deaths.
Today’s New York State Insurance Fund report analyzed more than 3,100 workers’ compensation claims paid to employees between 2020 and 2022.
The researchers analyzed Covid-related claims filed between January 1, 2020 and March 31, 2022, specifically those made by employees who were determined to have been infected while on the job.
More than a year after contracting Covid, more than 18 percent of workers who filed Covid claims had still not returned to work, according to the board’s report.
The vast majority of them, 78 percent, are under 60 years of age. And nearly three-quarters of long-covid claimants suffered symptoms that required treatment or kept them out of work for six months or more.
The report stated: ‘The implications are far-reaching. Those who cannot return to work lose their income and employer-provided health insurance, and…the longer a claimant remains out of work, the less likely they are to return.
“Being inexplicably ill and not working for an extended period can stigmatize patients and be very detrimental to their family and professional lives.”
The sum paid to covid patients for a long time was staggering. Of the total $20 million spent on covid-related workers’ compensation claims, a total of $17 million was paid out for the 977 people the fund designated with prolonged Covid.
Disruptions in the workforce were common during the first year of the pandemic in the US.
The public relied heavily on essential workers, including those in health services, law enforcement, and security, so it should come as no surprise that more than 80 percent of Covid-related claims were filed by those workers in the front line. A substantial 29 percent of workers whose claims were approved were found to have long-term covid.
Long covid has become a catch-all term for a wide variety of health problems that continue to plague a person for weeks, months, or years after recovering from the virus.
Scientists have only recently begun monitoring the long-term health effects of the coronavirus, which has cost people more than just money.
Efforts to beat Covid caused economic disruption in 2020 for much of 2021. New York was an early epicenter of the virus in 2020, resulting in massive absences from work due to illness or because other needs arose, like finding childcare.
Although 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 of 16 felonies and seven misdemeanors for grand theft, insurance fraud, forgery, falsifying business records and workers compensation fraud.
Twenty-three-year-old Ajani Shaw was found guilty of submitting false covid test results for five months to obtain workers’ compensation benefits.
A worker’s claim was honored if the worker had a positive test and after a review board determined that the worker was likely exposed to the virus at work.
A case was considered to be prolonged Covid if, after infection, a patient required medical treatment for 60 days or more or was absent 60 or more days from work.
What is the long Covid?
Long Covid is a general term to describe ongoing symptoms that last at least three months from the first diagnosis.
A dizzying array of symptoms have been attributed to prolonged covid, including:
- extreme tiredness (fatigue)
- difficulty breathing
- chest pain or tightness
- memory and concentration problems (‘brain fog’)
- difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
- heart palpitations
- joint pain
- depression and anxiety
- tinnitus, earaches
- feeling sick, diarrhoea, stomach ache, loss of appetite
- high temperature, cough, headache, sore throat, change in sense of smell or taste
There is no cure for the condition, which can be fatal. Approximately 3,500 people have died from covid-related conditions over a long period of time.
The CDC estimates that nearly eight percent of US adults are currently content with long-term covid.