As Democrats latch on to requests from the scientific community to fund studies on lasting impacts of COVID-19, Republicans have sought answers on what happened to the billions already approved.
Using the umbrella term “long COVID,” scientists have struggled to understand the persistent symptoms following infections during the pandemic. Listing brain fog, fatigue and varied muscle and nerve pains among experienced maladies, researchers argue that little has been done toward understanding these issues and developing long-term therapies in light of the immediacy for a response the virus had created.
Dr. Priya Duggal, an epidemiologist from Johns Hopkins University told the Washington Examiner, “We knew pretty early on that we were starting to see some signs of a more persistent state of COVID and yet most of our attention continued to focus on the acute phase of this infection because people were dying…and hospitals were being overrun.”
With hundreds of independent studies already investigating these matters, advisers to President Joe Biden and members of his party have signaled that their concerns may be less altruistic and more in line with expanding governmental authority.
Biden’s COVID response team now, which includes former head of the National Institute of Health (NIH) Francis Collins who resigned from his post as a special adviser in the fall, believes more of these studies should be controlled by NIH.
“Current long COVID research lacks a long-term focus, which risks creating further delays for therapy development,” the team reports. “Most importantly, there is no urgency to get rapid answers to basic questions to guide public health and patient care decisions.”
Biden declared “long COVID” symptoms fell under the protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act in July 2021 and, since then, many actions have been interpreted as highly political. Phillip Magness from the American Institute for Economic Research said in part, “research into the ‘Long COVID’ phenomenon has become hopelessly politicized by activists who wish to enlist its existence as a pretext for sweeping policy interventions and NIH funding.”
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) recently introduced legislation to permit $30 million toward research of these symptoms, stating he himself suffers from them. “As someone with mild long COVID,” Kaine said, “I am glad to introduce this legislation to help address the lingering effects of the coronavirus.”
The Office of Management and Budget has also requested an additional $22.5 billion to deal with COVID and “to accelerate global vaccination efforts and provide urgent humanitarian relief abroad; and for other purposes.”
With nearly $6 trillion already committed to various aspects of the pandemic, Republican lawmakers have issued a request that those funds be accounted for before any further spending be decided.
They ask how much of the funding has gone unspent from the various bills and how effective have been some of the measures taken. Answers to those questions might make Republicans less apprehensive about supporting measures like Rep. Greg Stanton’s (D-AZ) proposal to initiate a “COVID-19 Victims and Survivors Memorial Day.”
It isn’t difficult to imagine the nation unifying on Kristin Urquiza’s vision of a national memorial. Co-founder of Marked By COVID, Urquiza suggested, “We will be able to teach our children, our grandchildren and future generations about this moment in time, about our pain, about what happens in a public health crisis, about what is lost and who is lost.”
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