Wasthma Virginia Senator Tim Kaine experienced a “blizzard” of allergy-like symptoms in March 2020, which he blamed on the pollen coating on his car. “That was Washington, DC, at the end of March,” he said. I thought, “” Okay, here’s the hay fever outbreak. ”
Only when his wife, Anne Holton, developed “textbook” COVID-19 symptoms did Kaine begin to wonder if he might have contracted the new virus, the subject of the economic aid bill. economic giant — the CARES Act — when he and other lawmakers were either implementing it or not passing it. Testing at that time was very difficult to do, even for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 running matebut later antibody tests showed that Kaine and Holton were infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.
While his wife’s symptoms improved within a few weeks, Kaine was still feeling the effects of his infection more than two years later. Kaine says he feels almost constant nervous tension, like “five cups of coffee per nerve ending,” as well as a intermittent burning sensation on his skin. In a more recent development, everything he eats now has a slightly metallic and slightly sweet taste – the latter, he jokes, is suitable for an optimist.
Experience was attempted, even with his sunny outlook. Like millions of other people in America, Kaine has Long COVIDnames for coronavirus-related symptoms that last for months or even years. More than 200 symptoms are associated with long-term COVID, but some of the most common include fatigue, brain fog, chronic pain, and neurological problems like Kaine. He is the first to admit he has a mild case, one that has not affected his ability to work, exercise or live. But talking with long-term smokers, who have more severe cases – some bedridden by their symptoms – made Kaine determined to fight for support for her complex condition. and little known in Washington. “This alone brought me into the more painful and difficult realities that so many people are facing,” Kaine told TIME.
In March, along with fellow Democrats, Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey and Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth, Kaine introduced a bill with several key objectives: accelerate and fund research into Long COVID; educate the public, doctors, educators, and employers about this condition; and improve social support for people with long-term COVID, including people who can’t work. “Even if COVID-19 goes away tomorrow, the millions of Americans with the disease — including people of color who continue to bear the brunt of this pandemic — will continue to suffer from COVID,” Duckworth said in a statement. statement gives TIME. “A holistic approach to treatment is absolutely essential, especially for communities that face the harshest barriers to healthcare.”
Congress has awarded the National Institutes of Health more than 1 billion dollars for lengthy COVID research, but Kaine says passing the bill will ensure that funding doesn’t run out in the future. Following its introduction in March, the bill was moved to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Work and Pensions, of which Kaine is a member; it has yet to be put up for a vote on the Senate floor.
Meanwhile, Kaine has vowed to keep COVID long on the radar of top public health officials, including the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky and medical adviser Secretary of the White House, Dr. Anthony Fauci. “Sometimes the acute emergency of the pandemic has overshadowed the quiet but equally important crisis of Long COVID,” Kaine said. That’s what he’s trying to fix. “Whenever we have a health hearing and Fauci and Walensky are there, they know that I’m going to ask them, ‘How’s the research going?’, he said. Also on the to-do list, Kaine said, is gathering more data on long-term experience of people with disabilities with the disability welfare system Social Security.
Diana Berrent, founder of COVID-19 patient support group Survivor Corps and one of the country’s most outspoken advocates, said Kaine helped through her decision to speak publicly about her Long COVID case. only me. “Senator Kaine deserves real credit for sharing his personal story,” Berrent wrote in an email to TIME. “It was a brave thing for Kaine, especially when he realized his experience was only a shadow of someone else’s.”
Statistically speaking, it is likely that there are other prominent figures who have long COVID but choose not to talk about it. Researchers estimate that between 10% and 30% of people infected with COVID-19 will develop persistent symptoms. being fully immunized significantly reduces that risk. With many politicians, entertainers and athletes having tested positive for the virus, perhaps at least some of them are living privately with Long COVID.
Kaine wouldn’t name names, but he said he’s been approached by at least one “person of importance” in Washington who has long COVID but doesn’t feel comfortable talking about it. “The person said, ‘You can talk about having a nervous itch. I can’t talk about brainstorming and being confused, doing what I do… People would be nice to me, but they might not give me the things they entrust me with now,” says Kaine.
It’s not just a problem on Capitol Hill. Many long-term lovers have been forced to give up fulfilling careers or downsize their interests and commitments. Others have struggled to convince doctors and loved ones that their symptoms are real and deserve treatment. And some have been unable to receive subsidies or government subsidies because their symptoms are amorphous and difficult to classify. Advocates hope the conversation and public acceptance can go a long way toward reducing stigma, not only for those with long-standing illnesses but also for those with other conditions. Other complex chronic diseases such as myalgic myelitis / chronic fatigue syndrome and chronic Lyme disease.
Recently, Kaine has been thinking a lot about the future. He didn’t, he said, until a reporter asked if he expected to have Long COVID forever. “I didn’t really think about it because I didn’t really want to think about it,” he admitted.
Now, however, he’s come to an uneasy truce with the idea that his neurological symptoms may never go away. That both scared him and motivated him. Permanently long COVID is one thing for someone like Kaine, a 64-year-old man with the means and power and mild symptoms. “But what if I’m a 35-year-old with a whole life of parenting and a career ahead of me?” he says. “Not knowing is almost worse than facing the symptoms today…. I have to give [other long-haulers] an answer.”
Other must-read stories from TIME