Left with a bizarre feeling of pins-and-needles, one democratic lawmaker is no stranger to the agonizing effects of long COVID. Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.), a long-hauler himself, along with other members of Congress, aims to boost care for long COVID patients through legislation while opening up on his own journey.
Long COVID is a condition that may occur after fully recovering from the acute SARS-COV-2 infection wherein the patient undergoes lasting symptoms, such as shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle aches, and digestive issues.
Now becoming an advocate for long-haul patients, Sen. Kaine first contracted coronavirus in March 2020 when the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed.
To Sen. Kaine, it felt like a "weird blizzard of allergic reactions" with no traditionally related symptoms, like loss of taste or smell or respiratory issues. Not until his wife, Anne Holton, experienced a standard case of COVID-19 did the senator realize he caught the virus.
By mid-April of that year, his wife had fully improved, while he grappled with one symptom that he still can't shake to this day.
"Every nerve ending in my body -- not just fingers and toes, I mean everywhere -- just feels like it's kind of buzzing or tingling 24/7," Sen. Kaine told NBC New York, who described it as if "his never endings have had five cups of coffee."
While his lingering condition holds steady, Sen. Kaine decided to speak candidly about his persistent perplexity just a few months ago, introducing his legislation to support Americans wrestling with the mystery illness.
Two years after his personal encounter with COVID, Sen. Kaine released the Comprehensive Access to Resources and Education (CARE) for Long COVID Act, which aims to improve research and resources for long COVID patients.
Along with expanding access to services, the bill would create a centralized data registry for long COVID patients and educate medical providers as well as employers and schools on the impact or possible disability these American may face.
CARE for Long COVID Act has four co-sponsors, including Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) who proposed her own legislation for long-haulers. She likens the current stage of long COVID to the past situation Vietnam veterans faced with presumptive conditions linked to Agent Orange exposure.
"Men who served in Vietnam, had five times the rate of prostate cancer than the men at the same age who didn't serve in Vietnam, so you did have a link, but you had correlation," said Sen. Duckworth to News 4.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Sen. Duckworth introduced the Targeting Resources for Equitable Access to Treatment for Long COVID (TREAT Long COVID) Act, which targets specifically underserved populations in receiving proper long COVID clinics, grant resources, and medical training.
Before the TREAT Long COVID Act was announced, President Joe Biden issued a presidential memorandum for the Health and Human Services Department to prevent, detect and treat long COVID, making the effort across the federal government the first interagency national research action plan on long COVID.
“This is a sign that our efforts to raise awareness about Long COVID are working and momentum is on our side," Rep. Pressley noted on Biden's action plan.
This story is part of a series, "Living with Coronavirus For the Long Haul," following long COVID experts and patients during the two-year pandemic anniversary. Watch the previous episode here.