The Perfect Enemy | The war battling against COVID must not cease
August 11, 2022

The war battling against COVID must not cease

The war battling against COVID must not cease  New York Daily NewsView Full Coverage on Google News

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Last month, after two years of playing it safe, wearing a mask, being fully vaccinated and boosted twice, and not dining indoors, I got COVID. So did my 4-month-old daughter.

I had a fever of 103 that would come and go for four days straight. I was fatigued beyond anything I had felt before, with sweats, body aches and chills. I was also breastfeeding; my daughter was sick and needed comfort, so I fed her every 90 minutes throughout the ordeal. Thank goodness my partner did not get sick and could take care of us. We are also lucky to have the resources to order food to our house, speak to doctors on call, and get as much help as possible while having COVID.

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Still, I could not help but think about all those who got this virus and were alone, unable to take time off work or lacked the resources to get help. I thought about the terrible health care in our country, with no real paid leave and no support.

My daughter and I are mostly recovered now, but millions of people haven’t been so lucky. In the U.S., more than one million have lost their lives; hospitalizations have doubled since May. More than 6 million people have died globally. Tens of millions more experience long COVID as this growing wave infects or reinfects them.

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Living with long COVID can mean fatigue, cognitive problems, forgetfulness and respiratory challenges that can linger for months or longer. In what may surprise some, research shows that 76% who develop long COVID had a mild initial case. It also appears reinfection increases the chances of long COVID.

The challenge for the government is establishing appropriate guidelines for accommodations given the many unknowns about long COVID and the duration and severity of symptoms varying from person to person. According to conservative estimates, 4 million full-time equivalent workers — 2.4% of the U.S. working population — are out of work because of long COVID. That roughly translates to $230 billion a year in lost earnings.

Long COVID is a national crisis that’s only going to grow worse as expected cases continue to surge into the fall, and corresponding numbers of “long haulers” suffer from debilitating symptoms long after the fact.

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I’m staying in this fight for them and for all we can save — the lives, the time, the turmoil, the fear. We don’t have to live like this.

As much as we all want it to be, we need to understand that COVID isn’t over. Far from it. If anything, we’re in the midst of one of the worst surges yet. The latest omicron subvariants have proven four times more resistant to the booster. Hence the need for updated boosters.

We need science on our side, and we must arm ourselves with the tools to stay safe and keep our nation moving forward, end this pandemic and prepare for the next one. That requires necessary funding to research and roll out the next generations of vaccines and boosters that can tackle the virus and future variants as they emerge.

Last week, the Biden administration announced plans to begin offering reformulated COVID booster shots in September. Without new congressional funding, however, the federal government will not be able to afford a booster dose for all Americans, and states will receive smaller allocations of treatments. Thus far, Congress has refused to provide additional funding for efforts to combat the latest variants.

Time is running out for lawmakers to get their act together to fund an aggressive campaign to deliver enough reformulated boosters for every American. More money is also needed for tests and affordable treatments to tackle the virus and its new variants. Experts predict as many as 100 million Americans — nearly one in three — will get infected or reinfected with COVID this fall. According to The Commonwealth Fund, an aggressive campaign to deliver more booster shots could save 160,000 lives this fall and mean 1.7 million fewer hospitalizations. Making these life-saving investments is also critical to getting our economy back on track.

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I understand that after more than two years of dealing with the virus, everyone is tired of the debates over masks and vaccines and all the rest. But we just can’t ignore COVID if we care about saving lives. We must fight like hell to make sure Congress hears us. We have a short window before lawmakers leave for August recess. We must remind them that as much as we want this terrible period in American life to be over, pretending it is won’t make it so. Inaction will only set us back, leave us less prepared, and reverse all the progress we’ve made.

Jaff is president of the End COVID Now campaign.