For nearly three years, research into COVID-19 has been driven by questions we’ve had since the beginning of the pandemic: How does this virus spread, and what does it do to the human body? Scientists were still caught up in these early mysteries when a new one rose to their attention. A growing number of people who had cleared the initial viral infection were left with ongoing, life-altering symptoms. Once the medical establishment recognized long COVID as legitimate (a contentious story itself), it began in earnest to search for cures and treatments that would enable patients to make full recoveries.
A critical issue in the discourse has become apparent over time: We’re missing the mark in the way we talk about recovering from long COVID. The science tells us a full recovery is in no way guaranteed, and that progress can vary wildly among individuals. And yet, most current long COVID research is predicated on the notion that full-on recuperation is possible, said Alison Sbrana, a board member of the queer feminist wellness collective Body Politic.
Just take the name of the RECOVER Initiative, the $1.15 billion research project on long COVID launched by the National Institutes of Health. “It’s an acronym that spells ‘recover,’” Sbrana told The Daily Beast. “That just encompasses the way that our health care system and our research systems think about medicine and disability.”