With the COVID-19 pandemic lasting for almost two years, we are finally beginning to understand more about the long-term effects of the virus. While there is still much that we don’t know, we have been able to get an increasingly better picture of what those with “long COVID” can expect for symptoms. “Long COVID” is not a new term, but it can be challenging to understand. While long COVID is related to COVID-19, the condition itself varies slightly from its original form. To address questions about long-COVID and its status as a disability, the United States Department of Health and Human Services published a fact sheet. The guidelines provide a clear description of what constitutes “long COVID” and the rights those suffering with it now have under the ADA, or Americans With Disabilities Act.

What Is “Long COVID”?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines long-COVID as COVID symptoms, new or ongoing, lasting weeks or months after becoming infected with the virus. The CDC definition also says that these symptoms persist after recovering from COVID-19 and can worsen with increased physical or mental activity. For most people who have gotten COVID, their symptoms dissipated away a week or two. However, long-COVID lasts beyond this amount of time, continuing to affect daily life.

“Long COVID” Symptoms

At the beginning of the pandemic, medical professionals attempted to identify common symptoms that people might experience if they had contracted COVID. More often than not, the symptoms experienced by most were largely the same. However, not everyone shares the same symptoms when they are fighting COVID. The CDC has provided a list of common symptoms you might have if you have long-COVID. These symptoms include:

– Fatigue
– Tiredness
– Brain fog
– Shortness of breath
– Headaches
– Fast beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations)
– Chest pain
– Persistent cough
– Joint or muscle aches and pains
– Fever
– Loss of taste or smell

The CDC notes that these are common symptoms, but this list does not include all possible COVID-19 symptoms.

Can “Long COVID” Be Considered A Disability Under The ADA?

Depending on the circumstances of your condition, long-COVID can be considered a disability under the ADA. The Act defines a person with a disability as someone with a physical or mental impairment that significantly limits one or more life activities of that person; a person with a record of impairment, or a person who is regarded as having an impairment. Suppose a person with long-COVID displays conditions or symptoms of a physical or mental impairment that greatly inhibits major life activities. In that case, they can be considered as having a disability.

Physical Or Mental Impairment

The ADA defines what a physical and mental impairment is. A physical impairment is any condition affecting body systems like the circulatory system or respiratory system. A mental impairment is any disorder involving emotional or mental illness. The ADA characterizes long-COVID as a physical condition that affects multiple body processes and systems. Long-term COVID sufferers experience physical symptoms that include lung damage, heart damage, kidney damage, brain damage, diminished circulatory health, and persistent emotional and mental health conditions.

Substantial Limitations To Major Life Activities

What the ADA defines as a “major life activity” and what “substantially limits” such activity are broad definitions. These interpretations are purposely broad to be more inclusive. Some examples of major life activities include hearing, seeing, sleeping, and walking. Major life activities include the functioning of organs and organ systems. “Substantially limits” can be temporary or permanent and can involve any degree of impairment. The ADA provides the example of someone with shortness of breath and fatigue limiting physical activities.

Are All Cases Of “Long COVID” A Disability?

No, not all cases of long-COVID are considered disabilities. The HHS guidelines make it clear that you are eligible for long-COVID disability accommodation if you meet the definitions above. However, this assessment is made on a case-by-case basis, as COVID affects people differently.

What Rights Does Someone With Long-COVID Disability Have Under The ADA?

Because long-COVID is an ADA-recognized disability, anyone with long-COVID disability is entitled to the same protections as those with other recognized disabilities. Often, the ADA makes it possible for those with a disability to obtain a modification. One of the examples provided by the HHS is providing additional time to complete a test to a student suffering from long-COVID who is having difficulty concentrating.

The Future Of “Long COVID” As A Disability

As with the pandemics and the breakouts before it, expect the unexpected. With new science, especially with health-related events like a pandemic, nothing is ever certain. With as long as COVID has been around and with the development and deployment of a vaccine, it is easy to think that we understand COVID and have the pandemic under control. However, even though it feels like we have been dealing with the pandemic for an eternity, two years is but a blip on the radar in the science world. As we learn more about COVID and its long-term effects, it is possible that its designation as a disability could change. But for now, The United States has determined that long-COVID can be a disability, a condition whose symptoms can have significant, debilitating, and long-last effects on your life.

Employment Lawyers Are Here For You

With over 20 years of experience in the employment sector, Swartz Law is skilled at protecting employees’ rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). If you have been discriminated against or otherwise mistreated in violation of ADA, we can help you. Employment lawyer Tara Swartz will carefully review your situation, discuss your legal options, and fight on your behalf to get you compensation and justice from the employer who wronged you. To learn more about how Swartz Law can help you, call (617) 871-1500 or contact us online.