CDC Gave University of Arizona $7.3 Million to Study ‘Long COVID’

CDC Gave University of Arizona $7.3 Million to Study ‘Long COVID’

By Corinne Murdock |

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) awarded $7.3 million to the University of Arizona (UArizona) for a study on “long COVID.” Aiding this research will be the Arizona Department of Health Services and UArizona’s CoVHORT system: a data collection effort launched early in the pandemic that contains over 8,500 participants. 

UArizona is one of multiple research facilities throughout the nation examining post-COVID-19 conditions. Temple University, the University of Indiana, and Comagine Health will also conduct studies. UArizona researchers will estimate post-COVID-19 complications based on health care record data, and track the conditions of at least 1,000 individuals over the next two years.

In addition to regular scientific researchers, UArizona included the interim assistant dean of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the multimillion-dollar study: Velia Leybas Nuno. 

The remainder of the research team includes Sydney Pettygrove, associate research professor; Leslie Farland, assistant professor and BIO5 Institute member; Felina Cordova-Marks, assistant professor; Kacey Ernst, professor and program director of epidemiology; Elizabeth Jacobs, professor of epidemiology and biostatistics; Pamela Garcia-Filion, College of Medicine-Phoenix associate research professor; Vignesh Subbian, College of Engineering assistant professor and Center for Biomedical Informatics and Biostatistics associate director; and Vern Pilling, Center for Biomedical Informatics and Biostatistics director.

UArizona’s research arises from the Biden administration’s April announcement that it was accelerating research efforts to understand long COVID.

The CDC defines “long COVID,” also called “post-COVID conditions” (PCC), as a vague and varying array of symptoms that could last indefinitely and impact anyone who’s had any degree of COVID-19 infection — in some cases, even those who never tested positive for COVID. 

Symptoms include, but aren’t limited to: fatigue, brain fog, labored breathing, headaches, dizziness, heart palpitations, chest pain, cough, joint or muscle pain, depression, anxiety, fever, sleep problems, pins-and-needles, diarrhea, stomach pain, rash, change in menstrual cycles, and change or loss of taste or smell. These symptoms may lead to damage of the lungs, heart, kidneys, neurological system, circulatory system, and mental health. 

The CDC didn’t definitively state that unvaccinated individuals had a greater risk of long COVID than the vaccinated. No tests exist to diagnose long COVID. 

Concurrent with the rise of “long COVID” is a rise in adverse reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine. Symptoms of the two ailments overlap consistently. 

Last July, on the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Biden administration classified long COVID as a disability. The Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights and DOJ Civil Rights Division devised the long COVID disability guidance. 

The ADA prevents discrimination based on disability. This includes additional time on tests for students, accommodations for customers who can’t stand for long periods of time in line, refueling assistance at a gas station for a disabled customer, and even service animal assistance for those who grow dizzy while standing for long periods of time. 

The Biden administration also shared that it is looking to identify demographic patterns in long COVID victims in order to achieve equity, the health burdens and financial costs that the phenomenon incurs, and whether COVID vaccines do reduce long COVID.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.