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PHOTOS/VIDEO: Kaine, HHS Conclude Long COVID Summit in Richmond

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine teamed up with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to host a first-of-its kind in-person summit in Richmond for providers treating Virginians living with Long COVID and Virginians experiencing Long COVID.

Kaine, Admiral Rachel L. Levine, M.D., the Assistant Secretary for Health at HHS, Alison Barkoff, J.D., the Acting Administrator and Assistant Secretary for Aging at the Administration for Community Living, and Robert Otto Valdez, Ph.D., M.H.S.A, the Director of AHRQ, offered opening remarks. Then, Sherri Wilson, DNP, MPA, RN, the President of the Virginia Nurses Association, moderated a panel discussion with four patients from Tazewell, Prince William, Fairfax, and Southampton Counties who are experiencing Long COVID. The summit continued with breakout sessions for patients and providers to discuss best practices, collaborations, and treatment strategies as well as barriers to addressing Long COVID.

“People who are grappling with Long COVID should know that there’s somebody on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in the Senate who completely believes them and who is committed to doing everything together with the community to figure it out—and we have been able to do a good bit,” said Senator Kaine. “This is a significant issue not only in people’s quality of life, but in terms of the way our economy is working. So we have to do more to support Virginians and Americans with Long COVID.”

“Recognizing that patients need help today, we have prioritized improving access to services and the augmentation of clinical practice guidelines, because this multisystem condition requires a multisector approach,” said Admiral Rachel L. Levine, M.D., the Assistant Secretary for Health at HHS.

“Many people with long COVID will need assistance or accommodations in order to continue to live independently in the community,” said Alison Barkoff, Acting Administrator of the Administration for Community Living. “It is so important that we work together to identify gaps in services, supports, and policy; advance the science; share information and resources; and ensure people have access to the resources and services they need.”

“The effects of Long COVID undoubtedly reach beyond physical ailments and impairments; it also has taken a great toll on the financial health of healthcare systems and posed patient safety risks that we are working hard to reduce,” said AHRQ Director Robert Otto Valdez, Ph.D., M.H.S.A. “The new funds in our budget will support health systems research to assist healthcare executives and clinicians learn how best to deliver patient-centered, coordinated care, including the development and implementation of new models of care to help treat the complexity of symptoms that those with Long COVID experience.”

Photos of the event are available here.

Video of opening remarks and the patient panel are available here.

Additional stories from Virginians experiencing Long COVID in Arlington, Alexandria, Mechanicsville, and Sedley are available here.

The event followed various discussions led by Kaine with patients and providers across Virginia, and is the first-of-its-kind partnership between a lawmaker and AHRQ to bring patient perspectives and provider expertise on Long COVID together through a summit.

Last month, Kaine helped pass a government funding bill for Fiscal Year 2023 that includes $10 million for AHRQ to provide the research needed to ensure those experiencing Long COVID have access to the patient-centered, coordinated care they need. This effort was first outlined in the Comprehensive Access to Resources and Education (CARE) for Long COVID Actlegislation Kaine introduced in March 2022 to improve research on Long COVID and provide resources for people with Long COVID. Other provisions of Kaine’s bill were included in a list of new efforts announced by the Biden Administration last year to advance progress in prevention, diagnosis, and treatment for people with Long COVID. Kaine will continue to push for more research to understand the causes, treatments and cures for Long COVID, improve outreach and education for people, providers, and employers about Long COVID, and work to identify ways to best support Americans with disabling Long COVID symptoms.

Long COVID or post-COVID conditions are a wide range of new, returning, or ongoing health problems that people experience after being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. These symptoms range from mild to debilitating and can last for months and even years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that nearly 52% of adults in the U.S. report having had COVID-19, with 28% of adults who had COVID-19 experiencing some form of Long COVID. In Virginia, 47% of adults report ever having had COVID-19, with almost 30% of adults who had COVID-19 experiencing some form Long COVID. Currently, 5.8% of Americans and 6.2% of Virginians have Long COVID.