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Handling Covid ‘Long Haulers’

Even as vaccines appear to be defeating Covid 19 and more people return to work, employers are finding that they have to deal with the ongoing reality of an illness that in some cases simply refuses to go away.

“Long haulers” is the new term for these people. The syndrome also is called Long-Term or Long Covid.

The most common lasting symptoms are extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, cough, joint pain and chest pain. Others include cognitive problems, brain fog, insomnia, depression, muscle pain, headache, rapid heartbeat and intermittent fever.

No one yet knows when these symptoms will end, or even if they will end. The virus no longer lives in these people, so their test results will be negative. In employment situations, there is no danger that Long Haulers will be able to infect others.

There also is no evidence that the underlying health conditions that make people more susceptible to the Coronavirus – such as obesity, high blood pressure, smoking and diabetes – have anything to do with the persistence of symptoms.

Employees suffering from this syndrome may meet the definition of having a “disability” under the Americans With Disabilities Act. Under the law, a disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

To help those employees and employers who find themselves struggling with this issue, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Job Accommodations Network (JAN) recently added to its COVID-19 webpage answers to frequently asked questions on COVID-19 Long Haulers and the ADA.

DOL does not have enforcement authority for the ADA, which comes under the jurisdiction of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

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