President Joe Biden on Monday announced that some Americans experiencing long-term effects of Covid may qualify for disability resources and protections from the federal government.
The announcement came as the president marked the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act in a speech at the White House Rose Garden with Vice President Kamala Harris. It also comes as the long-term symptoms of the virus, what some call “long Covid,” shapes up to be a major public health issue.
“We are 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 disability law,” Biden said during his remarks.
Under guidance issued by Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice, “long Covid” can qualify as a disability under federal civil rights laws if it “substantially limits one or more major life activities.”
This means individuals with “long Covid” symptoms that rise to a disability are entitled to resources and protection from discrimination under federal disability laws. An individual assessment is necessary to determine whether a person with “long Covid” qualifies for such protections and resources, according to the guidance.
“Long covid” describes a wide range of new or ongoing symptoms that can follow four or more weeks after a Covid infection, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This includes tiredness and fatigue, joint or muscle pain, loss of taste or smell and a fever, among other symptoms.
Some people can also experience damage to multiple organs including the heart, lungs, kidney, skin and brain, according to the CDC. But “long Covid” symptoms are not consistent and it is unknown how many people have the condition.
The Biden administration also released new guidance that addresses the needs of children with “long Covid” who may have disabilities. The guidance, issued under the Department of Education, outlines how schools and public agencies can provide services to children and students with “long Covid” that rises to a disability.
Other efforts to support Americans with “long Covid” include a new guidance issued by the HHS that outlines community-based resources for those with the condition, and a new website launched by the Labor Department that includes resources for workers with “long Covid,” such as information on employee benefits.
Most people who contract Covid recover within a few weeks, but reports of “long Covid” symptoms have been growing amongst Americans.
Research released by FAIR Health last month found that approximately 23% of nearly 2 million Covid patients have developed at least one “persistent or new” medical condition more than four weeks after their initial diagnosis.