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Long COVID cases continue to rise in the USA

The US Census Bureau and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey residents on whether they have experienced long COVID. Their data shows that the rate of the condition has increased into January and February of 2024 compared to October 2023.

Let’s take a look at the numbers and determine what they tell us about how this disease is progressing in the USA.

syringe and pills on blue background
Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán on

What is long COVID?

Post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (also called long-haul COVID or simply, long COVID) are conditions, including, but not limited to, neuropsychiatric, digestive, pulmonary, cardiovascular, and diabetes. These conditions persist long after the SARS-CoV-2 infection has passed. There is no test to diagnose long COVID conditions, and some individuals may have a wide variety of symptoms that could result from prior health conditions but are exacerbated by COVID. This can make it difficult for healthcare providers to recognize post-COVID conditions. 

Worse yet, since the symptoms are so difficult to explain, they are often very difficult to manage. There is no known “cure” for long COVID, so healthcare professionals have to focus on treating the symptoms, not a favorite technique of most science-based physicians.

Some people love to point out that the vast majority of people survive a COVID-19 infection (while ignoring the large number, over 1 million in the USA alone, that have died). However, they fail to consider long-COVID, which may have more serious complications than the initial COVID-19 infection itself.

By September 2023, the CDC estimated that 7% of all American adults had experienced long COVID at some point.

Let me make this point again — COVID-19 vaccines reduce the risk of serious disease complications including developing long COVID-19.

Long COVID statistics

The survey by the Census Bureau and CDC includes 70,000 people who are regularly queried as a part of the ongoing Pulse Survey. Here are the key results from the survey:

  • 17.6% of those surveyed in January said that have experienced long Covid.
  • In February that number was 17.4%.
  • Between June 2022 and October 2023, the long COVID numbers hovered between 14% and 15%.

I can only speculate why these numbers have jumped so much, but it could be caused by winter holidays and a decline in masking and other public health measures. Of course, the most obvious cause is anti-vaccine rhetoric or vaccine apathy.

About 20% of the population has received the latest vaccine booster, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. That is just too low.

North Carolina

Independently, advocates, researchers, and clinicians also reported seeing an increase in the number of people who have developed long COVID after a second or third infection.

John Baratta, MD, who runs the COVID Recovery Clinic at the University of North Carolina, said the increase is related to a higher rate of acute cases in the fall and winter of 2023.

In January, the percentage of North Carolinians reporting ever having had long COVID rate jumped to 20.2% in January and fell to 16.8% in February.

Michael Simpson

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