Long-haul COVID-19 now considered a disability

Tara Shock of Wesley Chapel was in the ICU for nine days last December, diagnosed with COVID-19 and unable to see her own parents.

"Within 24 hours, I was in congestive heart failure," she recalled.

She thought the day she got out would be the first day of the rest of her life.

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Now she's unable to stand without her heart racing, has brain fog, blood clots, and a first-time diagnosis of auto-immune disorders. She's using FMLA to take time off from work.

Tara Shock

"I never would have imagined in a million years I'd be sitting in the spot I am right now," she said. "It has truly just taken away my entire life."

The president announced Monday that cases like hers will now be considered disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act, so long as lingering symptoms "substantially limit major life activities."

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"So they can live their lives in dignity, and get the support they need," President Biden said from the White House during a commemoration of the signing of the original ADA.

Tampa attorney Jason Imler has handled cases of 20 COVID-19 long haulers and says the key to the new guidance is that clients would have a legal avenue to win reasonable accommodations from employers, like the right to work from home.

"The employer can't deny you that request saying it's just an illness," said Imler.

The administration's directive through the Department of Health and Human Services says an individualized assessment will be required, which Imler expects would be through a doctor.

This is one protection Shock is glad to have but wishes she didn't need.

"This is relief in the sense of security, protection and just being recognized," said Shock. "COVID long hauler is something I didn't even know about until I started receiving all the different diagnoses."

The new guidance is only in relation to long-haul COVID cases, but does not address when COVID-19 may meet the legal definition of a disability.