Having Covid for a long time may be considered a disability.
The Biden administration has announced its intentions to protect people who are suffering the long-term health consequences of Covid-19 from discrimination by potentially allowing them to qualify for disability benefits under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, sleeping disorders, fevers, ‘brain fog,’ and even cognitive impairment, generalized pain, and mental health problems.
“We’re bringing agencies together to make sure Americans with long Covid, who have a disability, have access to the rights and resources that are due under the disability law,” President Biden said. Some considerations include workplace, school, and the healthcare accommodations.
The departments of Health, Justice, Education and Labor released guidance explaining that having the virus for a significant period of time can constitute a disability under federal civil rights laws and may come with disability benefits. Under the ADA, Covid can be a disability if it substantially limits one or more essential daily activities, include “working, doing manual tasks, sleeping, eating, breathing, concentrating, and communicating.” The Department of Labor has also launched a new website with information on how to request workplace accommodations, and the Department of Education clarified schools’ responsibilities to students.
“Many Americans who seemingly recover from the virus still face lingering challenges,” Biden said.
Moreover, even those vaccinated run a risk of being reinfected. “Coronavirus vaccines were never designed to perfectly protect people against all infections,” explained Dr. Eric Topol, founder of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in California.
Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, added he finds it “concerning – though not conclusive – that people had lingering symptoms weeks after getting sick,” and, “There really may be a risk here, but we don’t know how big a risk and how much of a problem it is.”
About 30% of Covid-19 patients reported “persistent symptoms as long as nine months after illness,” according to a study published in JAMA Network Open in February. Researchers have found women are more likely to have long Covid than men, and the likelihood of experiencing persistent symptoms increases with age.
“Many individuals experience persistent symptoms and a decline in health-related quality of life after coronavirus disease 2019 illness,” the researchers wrote. “Existing studies have focused on hospitalized individuals 30 to 90 days after illness onset and have reported symptoms up to 110 days after illness. Longer-term sequelae in outpatients have not been well characterized.”
President Biden said recently that the pandemic was continuing to spread largely “because of the unvaccinated, and they’re sowing enormous confusion.” He added, “The more we learn, the more we learn about this virus and the Delta variant the more we have to be worried and concerned. There’s only one thing we know for sure, if those other hundred million people got vaccinated, we’d be in a very different world. So, get vaccinated, if you haven’t, you’re not nearly as smart as I said you were.”
Mask mandates are expected to return as the world continues to battle virus and ongoing complications.