Biden recently announced efforts on 31st anniversary of the American Disabilities Act
President Joe Biden recently announced that Americans suffering from the effects of long haul COVID will have access to disability protections.
Biden made the announcement on the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Passed in 1990, the Act makes it illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities in various settings – including at work. The ADA requires that covered employers make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities.
For months after the start of the pandemic, COVID “long haulers” fought to have their condition recognized. A World Health Organization (WHO) report published in February 2021 found that about one in 10 COVID patients remain unwell 12 weeks after their initial infection – and many still suffer from symptoms for much longer, both mental (e.g. memory lapses, brain fog) and physical (e.g. intestinal pain, lung damage, etc.).
“Many Americans who seemingly recovered from the virus still face lingering challenges like breathing problems, brain fog, chronic pain or fatigue. These conditions can sometimes […] rise to the level of a disability,” said Biden, who was keen to highlight the bipartisan nature of the efforts.
While details are still scant about what this could look like, Biden said that the White House will coordinate with various federal agencies to ensure that those suffering from long-term COVID understand their rights and have access to valuable resources.
As the details are ironed out, it seems as if not all long-haulers will be covered by the ADA.
Indeed, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Health and Human Services (HHS) recently issued guidance that it would be applied to situations where long-haul COVID “substantially limits” a person’s life. Nevertheless, they also say that this recommendation should not demand extensive analysis:
“The impairment does not need to prevent or significantly restrict an individual from performing a major life activity, and the limitations do not need to be severe, permanent, or long-term.
Whether an individual with long COVID is substantially limited in a major bodily function or other major life activity is determined without the benefit of any medication, treatment, or other measures used by the individual to lessen or compensate for symptoms. Even if the impairment comes and goes, it is considered a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when the impairment is active,” said the agencies in a joint statement.