Katie Bach, a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who was not involved in the report, said the study showed that “we have a group of people who have had long Covid and who, at least until now, have not been able to get back to work, and that is a significant number of people.
She said the report reflected only part of the workforce: employees exposed to the virus in the workplace and knowledgeable enough about workers’ compensation to file claims. That could include employees who are younger or sicker than the overall workforce, while also missing other workers with long-term Covid, said Ms Bach, whose own research suggests around 500,000 people in the US are currently not working due to a long duration of Covid.
The New York report also found optimistic signals. Since the first wave of the pandemic in early 2020, long-lasting Covid cases have declined as a percentage of workers’ compensation claims and Covid-related claims. The decrease has coincided with the advent of vaccines, which studies suggest reduce the risk of long Covid, and with new treatments for coronaviruses, supporting the idea that if people can avoid getting seriously ill from their initial infection, they are less likely to suffer long-term symptoms.
Still, Mr Vasisht said the agency continued to receive claims for workers with long-term Covid, particularly after outbreaks of infections. The report also suggested that more employees than the data reflected could have met the criteria for long Covid claims. The vast majority of all Covid-related claims, more than 83%, have been filed by essential workers – in professions such as healthcare, law enforcement and security services. But only 29% of their claims met the definition of long Covid, while 44% of non-essential workers met that definition.
This could be because “essential workers may not have been able to stay home beyond the required quarantine period,” the report said. And healthcare workers may have “self-treated their symptoms” rather than seeking medical attention, the report said, adding that “essential workers may have higher long Covid rates than the data suggests, creating a blind spot for policy makers”.
“A lot of people can’t afford not to work and so they work when they really shouldn’t, continuing to work while they’re sick,” Ms Bach said. She said the experience of people with similar post-viral conditions like myalgic encephalomyelitis and chronic fatigue syndrome suggests some people who work despite their long Covid may have more difficult recoveries. “When people with an illness whose hallmark symptoms are fatigue and brain fog get busy, they won’t be as productive and they’ll likely reduce their chances of improvement,” she said.
. Long Covid maintains number important people unemployment according to a study