Long COVID Keeping Up to 4 Million Workers Out

long covid, long-haul covid-19Long COVID-19—long-term effects stemming from COVID-19 infection—continues to impact the labor market and the health of employees. The U.S. Census Bureau’s June to July 2022 Household Pulse Survey found that 16.3 million working-age Americans currently have long COVID. It has been reported that long-term COVID complications are even keeping some workers out of employment; an estimated 4 million workers are out of the labor market, according to Brookings Institution’s nonresident senior fellow Katie Bach. With so many out of work, employers should continue to monitor trends such as long COVID rates, the effect it is having on their workforce’s productivity and other related issues so they can be prepared to respond effectively.

The University of Southern California’s Understanding America Study about its COVID-19 longitudinal survey reported that 24.1% of individuals who have had COVID-19 have long COVID, and 25.9% of people with long COVID reported that their condition affected their employment or working hours. However, the study finds that most people with long COVID remain employed but work fewer hours compared to their long COVID-free counterparts.

While exact estimates of the number of workers that may be kept out of the labor market vary between 2 to 4 million, the midpoint of 3 million is equivalent to 1.8% of the entire U.S. workforce. Based on the average U.S. wage of $1,106 per week, it is estimated that with 1.8% of the workforce out of work due to long COVID, around $170 billion a year will be lost in unearned wages.

SYMPTOMS OF LONG COVID

People with long COVID report experiencing different combinations of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating
  • Cough
  • Chest or stomach pain
  • Headache
  • Heart palpitations
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Sleep problems
  • Fever
  • Light-headedness
  • Change in smell or taste

People also report that their symptoms may get worse after physical or mental activities.

MULTIORGAN EFFECTS OF COVID-19

Some people who were severely ill with COVID-19 experience multiorgan effects or autoimmune conditions over a longer time, with symptoms lasting weeks or months after COVID-19 illness. Multiorgan effects can affect most, if not all, body systems—including heart, lung, kidney, skin and brain functions. Autoimmune conditions happen when your immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells in your body, causing painful swelling or tissue damage in the affected parts of the body.

vaccination, covid vaccine, clinic, nurse, mask, pandemic

While it is very rare, some people—mostly children—experience multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS) during or immediately after a COVID-19 infection. MIS is a condition where different body parts can become inflamed.

CAN LONG COVID BE PREVENTED?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if you’re not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 yet, the best way to prevent any long-term complications is by getting vaccinated as soon as possible. The CDC recommends that everyone 6-months of age and older should get a COVID-19 vaccination, regardless of whether you have had COVID-19 or a post-COVID condition.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Even with the number of COVID-19 cases declining, long COVID remains a major issue. The presence of long COVID continues to affect the labor market and employee health, which in turn can directly affect employers. From decreased productivity to the loss of employees from the workforce entirely, long COVID can pose serious risks for employers if they do not stay up to date on trends surrounding its rates and other related topics such as strategies other employers are using to respond to long COVID.

Contact us to speak to a consultant if you have a questions about how your benefit package can aid employees struggling with long covid or other chronic diseases. Benefits such as a disability plan or an employee assistance program (EAP) may provide relief in some way. You can also find more tips and resources throughout the FBS Blog and by following us on Twitter and LinkedIn.