Long COVID: The Unknown Debilitating Disease Affecting Millions of Americans

In 2020, all of our lives changed drastically as the world was hit with the most virulent and disruptive pandemic of the modern age. A few years later, there have been many attempts to return to a state of normalcy, as mask mandates became recommendations and companies began calling employees back to office. For most, the horrors and inconveniences of COVID-19 are becoming a distant memory. However, for a growing, silent minority, COVID-19 continues to inflict a living nightmare. 

COVID-19, like many other viral infections, can be swiftly targeted and eliminated in the body by the immune system with the assistance of vaccination. For mild cases of COVID-19, recovery can take anywhere from a few days to approximately two weeks. For severe cases, infection can proliferate for up to 6 to 12 weeks before recovery. However, for the case of many who suffer from Long COVID, patients don’t see a recovery period. In fact, their symptoms only seem to get worse. 

Very little is currently known about Long COVID. However, the cause is currently attributed to a failure of the immune system to properly ward off COVID-19, leading to the infection accumulating in tissue “reservoirs.” Long COVID patients experience constant “brain fog,” which consists of feelings of lethargy, dizziness, and a myriad of other debilitating symptoms. Many of these symptoms are unexplainable by our current scientific understanding.2 Although severity differs by person, approximately 20% of those with Long COVID have seen severe deterioration in motor and neurological function, leading to confinement to beds and dimly lit rooms to avoid stimulation that can trigger these debilitating symptoms. 

Overall, a total of 7% of individuals in the US who have had COVID-19 have experienced symptoms of Long COVID. That’s approximately 23 million people. All the while, efforts to understand and find a working therapeutic for this disease have been slowed to a crawl. Long COVID research is still widely in its early phases. In December  2020, Congress allocated 1.15 billion dollars in order to design what is now known as the RECOVER Initiative to create therapeutics to treat Long COVID. Three years later, only a select few treatments for Long COVID have entered clinical trials. Furthermore, in early 2024, an additional 515 million dollars was entrusted to the RECOVER Initiative to fund research aimed at better understanding the infectious capabilities of Long COVID.1 This further highlights our current lack of understanding of Long COVID. 

One of the main reasons accounting for the vast difference in timeline is the fact that chronic diseases are harder to treat due to the lack of understanding of their underlying biological mechanisms. As Long COVID is a complex chronic disease, treatments will not be as straightforward as they have been for COVID-19 with the mRNA vaccine. This is shown with the fact that so much is still unknown about long COVID-19 despite the numerous years scientists have spent researching.

To address the lack of national concern for Long COVID, many are now requesting a “Moonshot Plan,” similar to the Cancer Moonshot Initiative orchestrated by the Biden-Harris Administration. The presiding goal of the initiative would be to organize and accumulate government resources to sequester a more active role in the fight against Long COVID. This would include more government funding, a more aggressive treatment timeline, and even sponsored training on Long COVID research and treatment for up and coming scientific researchers.5 

Although Long COVID has seemingly avoided the public eye, as more people fall victim to this disease it is increasingly important that it not only receives national attention, but also that it is scientifically and medically addressed with an increased sense of urgency. With a disease this debilitating, it is important that we amplify the voices of those who do not have the ability to voice their own concerns.  


  1. Bertagnolli, M. (2024, February 13). Researching COVID to enhance recovery. RECOVER. https://recovercovid.org/updates/nih-to-bolster-RECOVER-Long-COVID-research-efforts
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023, July 20). Long Covid or post-covid conditions. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/long-term-effects/index.html
  3. Cuevas, E., & Weintraub, K. (2024, February 28). Millions of Americans suffer from Long Covid. why do treatments remain out of reach?. USA Today. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2024/02/26/long-covid-treatments-out-of-reach/72690587007/
  4. Rachel Cohrs, B. L. (2023, July 25). The NIH has poured $1 billion into long Covid research – with little to show for it. STAT. https://www.statnews.com/2023/04/20/long-covid-nih-billion/
  5. Shutt, J. (2024, January 19). Patients struck by Long Covid plead with U.S. Senate panel for more research funding. Nebraska Examiner. https://nebraskaexaminer.com/2024/01/18/patients-struck-by-long-covid-plead-with-u-s-senate-panel-for-more-research-funding/ 
  6. Vector illustration of sick patient lying in hospital bed with doctor physician. (n.d.). Wannapik. https://www.wannapik.com/vectors/33426?search%5Bcategory_id%5D=2197&search%5Bfeatured%5D=0&search%5Blandscape%5D=1&search%5Btype%5D=Vector