Report Shows Long COVID Wreaking Havoc on America’s Workforce

30 Aug, 2022 F.J. Thomas


Sarasota, FL ( – While COVID-19 may not be the urgent health crisis that it once was, several new reports are suggesting that the workplace could be impacted in multiple ways.

Researchers are just now starting to understand the longer lasting effects that a SARS-CoV-2 infection on the brain. In one study earlier this year, patients that reported loss of smell as long as two months after initial infection were more likely to exhibit cognitive impairment. Up to 26 percent of those that had COVID-19 showed mild to moderate cognitive impairment as long as 12 months later. The researchers noted that the virus triggered an inflammatory response similar to autoimmune reaction.

The CDC defines long COVID or Post-COVID as long-term effects from having been infected with SARS-CoV-2. One researcher defines it as a “long-term sequel of a SARS-CoV-2 infection, presenting as continuous or relapsing and remitting symptoms several weeks after microbiological recovery”.

Some of the long COVID symptoms highlighted in July by the CDC include not only cognitive issues, but headache, difficulty sleeping, dizziness, and depression. Additional symptoms include heart palpitations, difficulty breathing, fatigue, fever, diarrhea and stomach pain, rashes, and joint pain.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, long COVID can be a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act if it limits one or more major life activities.

According to a July report written by Dasom Ham and released by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, around 24.1 percent of those that have had COVID reported long-term symptoms, with around 25.9 percent requiring adjusted work hours due to symptoms, resulting in less work hours and less pay. Around 57 percent of those with Long COVID remained employed, however Ham found that they worked an average of 50 percent fewer hours than those employees without a history of COVID, with an average reduction of 10 hours per week.

Earlier this year, it was speculated that long COVID accounted for around 15 percent of unfilled jobs. A new report from nonprofit think tank Brookings Institution, estimates that around 8 percent, totaling 16 million of working aged adults, have long COVID with around 2 to 4 million out of work because of their symptoms. Utilizing Ham’s report, as well as data from United Kingdom’s Trades Union Congress and a study from the Lancet, Brookings estimates that 1.8 percent of the entire U.S. workforce is out of work due to long COVID.

According to the Brookings report, the U.S. is not the only country to see a dent in their labor force. The UK has reported a 1.3 percent drop in workers, and as many as one-quarter of employers are attributing long COVID as the top reason for long-term employee absences.

The Brookings analysts estimate the overall impact of lost salaries at $168 billion, and as high as $230 billion if the true number of employees out of work is closer to 4 million.

According to a report from the Workers' Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau of California, around 11 percent of workers with mild infections received treatment for long COVID under workers compensation. For workers whose cases were more severe and resulted in long COVID, their claims cost was 16 percent more than non-COVID cases that required hospitalization.

Long COVID has been likened to the next national health disaster, and sometimes called the pandemic after the pandemic. It will be interesting to see how the balance of less salaries, less workers, paired with complex treatment requirements and costs play out for employers trying to navigate as best they can.

For COVID-19 workers' compensation information from across the country, visit WorkCompResearch.


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    About The Author

    • F.J. Thomas

      F.J. Thomas has worked in healthcare business for more than fifteen years in Tennessee. Her experience as a contract appeals analyst has given her an intimate grasp of the inner workings of both the provider and insurance world. Knowing first hand that the industry is constantly changing, she strives to find resources and information you can use.

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