‘Long haul’ COVID-19 may qualify as disability

Coronavirus

Maria Romero, a so-called “long hauler” with continued COVID-19 symptoms weeps after receiving free groceries on December 22, 2020 in Stamford, Connecticut. Romero said she was originally sick with COVID-19 in April. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – While thousands of people have recovered from COVID-19 some are testing negative but are not feeling any better.

It’s a condition referred to as long COVID — those patients are considered “long haulers.”

The Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice say these long haulers may be protected from discrimination under federal laws. HHS said long COVID is covered under the American Disability Act, Section 504, and Section 1557 “if it substantially limits one or more major life activities.”

In their guidance, HHS said “A person with long COVID has a disability if the person’s condition or any of its symptoms is a ‘physical or mental’ impairment that ‘substantially limits’ one or more major life activities.”

HHS listed the following at potential impairments:

  • Lung damage
  • Heart damage, including inflammation of the heart muscle
  • Kidney damage
  • Neurological damage
  • Damage to the circulatory system resulting in poor blood flow
  • Lingering emotional illness and other mental health conditions

HHS also listed the following as potential major life activities:

  • Caring for oneself, performing manual tasks
  • Seeing
  • Hearing
  • Eating
  • Sleeping
  • Walking, standing, sitting
  • Reaching, lifting, bending,
  • Speaking, breathing
  • Learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, writing, communicating
  • Interacting with others
  • Working

HHS warned that long COVID patients are not always a disability and that a patient must be assessed by a professional to determine whether they qualify.

Researchers are still working to learn more about long COVID. The condition may impact one or more organs for four weeks or longer. Click here to learn more about what the CDC knows about the condition so far.

Getting help with lingering symptoms

For Appointments at UNC

To make an appointment, call 984-974-9747

To make a referral through EPIC or UNC CareLink, follow these instructions:

Place an order (referral) for: “Ambulatory Referral to Center for Rehabilitation Care”
For the department choose: “UNC PHYSICAL MEDICINE FORDHAM BLVD CHAPEL HILL”
Department Specialty: “Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation”

Note: Please also include the phrase “COVID Recovery Clinic”

Click here for more information on the clinic.

For Appointments at WakeMed

The COVID-19 Recovery Program at WakeMed also requires a referral. Like UNC’s program, it combines strategies to address mental and physical well-being.

To make an appointment, call 919-350-8786.

Referrals can be entered in Epic or faxed to 919-350-8959

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