The burden of long covid on black Americans

Nevertheless, Horwitz, who is also the principal investigator of RECOVER, believes the study will provide a clearer picture of the impact of long-term covid on black people. Gregorio Millett, vice president and director of public policy for amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, agrees. Millett, who is an epidemiologist, co-authored the first research paper to point out that black people contracted covid-19 disproportionately in the US. He says there are enough black participants “to conduct different comparative analyzes with other races or ethnicities.”

RECOVER is still recruiting participants. When the recruitment period ends, the project could finally begin to answer some of the big questions about long-term covid and its impact on subgroups such as black Americans. In this third year of the pandemic, the disease is already casting a shadow on the daily lives of millions of people. Understanding the burden of long-term covid — both as a disease and as an economic event — is crucial if government officials or clinicians hope to promote equality in a health care system already stacked against people of color.

Medical Abuse

By early August, more than 93 million cases of Covid had been reported in the US, although the number of actual cases is much higher. Covid vaccinations and boosters reduce the risk of infection, but offer no guarantees. (However, vaccines are thought to reduce the risk of developing long-term covid after a breakthrough infection by 15%.)

When Ostrosky treats patients recovering from Covid, he finds that they tend to fall into one of the “three buckets.” Some recover from severe symptoms and organ failure; others developed a chronic illness, such as diabetes, during their covid infection; and then there are those with long-term covid.

“These are the most difficult to treat,” he says of long covid patients. “They have serious symptoms, but we can’t find anything biologically wrong or an underlying disease.”

Some have been struggling for months. Fisher remembers the day her long covid symptoms started: August 11, 2020. Her handwriting changed. Her right foot began to tremble. The next morning she had tremors all over her body that prevented her from walking or taking care of herself.

Doctors eventually placed implants on her spine to deliver electrical stimulation and calm the tremors in her upper and lower extremities. She can now unlock her door and apply her own makeup. After being in a wheelchair for months, she is able to cover short distances using a wheeled walker and leg braces. But she still can’t work.

Fisher says she’s lucky to have insurance, access to quality medical care, and a doctor who advocated for her. But she also remembers the condescension and contempt she felt from some of the medical staff. She had to have repeated ER visits before her symptoms were taken seriously. This is not unusual for black women, who are more likely to have negative experiences in medical settings and more likely to be permanently injured or killed.