Jul 26, 2021 - Health

Americans with long-COVID symptoms may qualify for disability resources

President Biden speaking in Arlington, Virginia, on July 23.

President Biden speaking in Arlington, Virginia, on July 23. Photo: Oliver Contreras/Sipa/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Americans experiencing long-term symptoms of COVID-19 may qualify for federal disability resources and must receive accommodations, the White House announced Monday.

Driving the news: The Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services released new guidance that categorizes "long COVID" as a physical or mental impairment, entitling people with the illness to discrimination protections under the American Disabilities Act.

How it works: Anyone who had COVID-19 could develop long-term symptoms, even if the initial illness was mild, according to the HHS.

  • People can experience symptoms of long COVID months after first being infected with the virus.
  • Symptoms include fatigue, brain fog, difficulty breathing, heart palpitations, chest pain, loss of taste or smell and joint or muscle pain.

Yes, but: The HHS said long COVID is not always a disability. "An individualized assessment is necessary to determine whether a person's long COVID condition or any of its symptoms substantially limits a major life activity," the agency said in its guidance.

What they're saying: "Many Americans who seemingly recover from the virus still face lingering challenges, like breathing problems, brain fog, chronic pain and fatigue," President Biden said Monday during an event to mark the 31st anniversary of the ADA.

  • "These conditions can sometimes rise to the level of a disability. So, 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 Act," the president added.

Worth noting: The Department of Education will also provide information on schools' responsibilities for adapting services to students for whom long COVID is a disability, the White House said.

The big picture: A study last month from FAIR Health found that about 23% of COVID-19 patients have developed at least one "persistent or new" medical condition more than four weeks after their initial diagnosis.

  • The American Medical Association's House of Delegates, the top physician's group in the U.S., last month called for policies to better diagnose and treat long-haul COVID-19, and endorsed guidelines for guiding any future vaccine mandates and credentials.

Go deeper: NIH to study long COVID in kids

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