COVID-19 Long-Haul Syndrome and Workers' Compensation Benefits
The main symptoms of COVID-19—fever, cold symptoms and or cough—typically appear within two to 14 days of exposure, with most people recovering within two weeks. However, some people have symptoms that persist for months, and are often referred to as "long-haulers."
In addition, those who contract COVID-19 at work—whether or not they are long-haulers—most likely will be covered by Workers' Compensation.
Long-Haul COVID 19 Symptoms
No one wants to be a part of the long-haul COVID club. And it's not just older people who are impacted in this way; even young, healthy people can feel ill for weeks to months after infection. According to the Mayo Clinic, common symptoms that linger include the following:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Joint pain
- Chest pain
- Memory, concentration or sleep problems
- Muscle pain or headache
- Fast or pounding heartbeat
- Loss of smell or taste
- Depression or anxiety
- Dizziness upon standing
- Worsened symptoms after physical or mental activities
- Brain fog
That last one incorporates forgetfulness, confusion or even the inability to concentrate enough to watch TV.
In addition, COVID-19 can impact most major organ systems, including respiratory, cardiovascular, metabolic, musculoskeletal, pulmonary, gastrointestinal, nervous and regulatory processes.There are no limits to the effects of long-haul COVID, and it does not discriminate. It impacts people who were hospitalized with severe COVID-19 as well as those with mild symptoms who recovered at home. It effects people who were battling other conditions before contracting COVID-19 as well as those who were completely healthy.
The Effects Can Be Far Reaching
"Experts don't know enough about COVID-19 to fully understand its lingering effects," says Erika Vargas, a partner in the Workers' Compensation law firm of Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP (GEK). "For instance, they don't know why those with lingering COVID symptoms can't shake the ongoing fatigue. Some experts believe that the virus remains in the bodies in some way or that their immune systems keep overreacting even after the infection is gone."
"Many people who were not afforded the luxury of working from home in a relatively isolated atmosphere contracted COVID-19 in the workplace," says Steve Scardino, a GEK partner. "Even if they are treated, many still have symptoms. There is a scarcity of treating doctors and many delays in care, but workers need to know they have rights, including a neutral examination by a Qualified Medical Evaluator or an Agreed Medical Evaluator to assess permanent impairment, potential compensation, and lifetime medical care."
COVID-19 Return-to-Work Guidelines
A common question among many who have contracted the disease is, "When can I go back to work after COVID?" The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has set directives for workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 regarding returning to work. Healthcare workers are advised to follow the CDC guidelines for healthcare personnel.
According to the CDC, people who "test positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and who have had symptoms may return to work or school when:
- At least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared, and
- At least 24 hours have passed with no fever (without use of fever-reducing medications), and
- Other symptoms have improved."
The CDC further states that those "who test positive for SARS-CoV-2 who never develop symptoms may return to work or school 10 days after the date of their first positive test for SARS-CoV2."
Many people with long-haul symptoms either try or do return to work, but are in need of further medical care, sometimes lifetime medical care.
Going Back to Work After COVID
"Returning to work after COVID can be a scary proposition for many, but when you add long-haul symptoms into the picture, it can become even more daunting," says Scardino. "People are not only concerned about themselves, but also about their co-workers. Safety and wellness are paramount as we all deal with the pandemic.
"One thing is for sure: it is vital to have an experienced Workers' Compensation attorney on your side to ensure you receive the full range of benefits to which you are entitled. At GEK, we have been handling Workers' Compensation COVID cases from the start, representing clients who were infected on the job and who suffer from a wide range of symptoms, including permanent impairments. Your health and well-being are paramount; we are here for you."