State health officials are looking ahead to the long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Long COVID is a condition that can cause ongoing physical, neurological and mental health issues. Medical experts say it could be impacting hundreds of thousands of Californians.
A new study out of the United Kingdom found that nearly one out of 50 people reported long COVID symptoms.
'If we extrapolate that to nearly 40 million Californians, that could be close to 800,000 persons self-reporting long COVID symptoms in our state," said California State Epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan. "So, it is no wonder that the COVID pandemic is also referred to as a mass disabling event."
Long COVID is a condition that sticks around after the virus is gone.
Symptoms include fatigue, rapid heart rate, shortness of breath and brain fog. That can include short-term memory loss and difficulty doing normal tasks.
"Brain fog is really debilitating and from a societal level, this is one of the symptoms that's really preventing people from going back to work full-time, from kind of re-engaging in their daily lives," said Dr. Lucy Foster, Infectious Disease Specialist for UC San Diego Health.
Doctors say that experiencing symptoms for 12 weeks or longer is considered true long COVID.
Other signs include increased anxiety and depression, all symptoms that can have various causes.
"A lot of the symptoms, especially the neurologic and the mental health symptoms, it's impossible to tease out what is truly caused by long COVID and what is caused by the collective trauma that everyone's experienced from two years of living in the pandemic," Dr. Foster said. "I don't know that we'll ever truly sort that out."
Medical experts are now working on a unified response.
The California Senate will discuss how to deal with the ongoing impacts of long COVID during a senate committee hearing on Wednesday.