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Gelman: Workers' Compensation Benefits for Long COVID

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While the federal expanded benefits are ending for many workers on Labor Day, workers’ compensation benefits are still available for those who have been exposed to COVID at work and contract disease and remain ill from long COVID.

Jon L. Gelman

Jon L. Gelman

Federal expanded benefits end

Expanded unemployment insurance (UI) benefits established under the federal CARES Act in March 2020 were renewed by the Continued Assistance Act in December 2020 and again by the American Rescue Plan in March but expired Saturday. 

Enhanced UI benefits were quickly enacted as the COVID-19 pandemic uprooted millions of workers across the country, causing many to abruptly lose their jobs or prevent them from finding new ones. These programs provided supplemental funds on top of regular UI payments and extended benefits to those who typically would have been ineligible. 

Workers’ compensation benefits for long COVID

Workers’ compensation benefits (temporary, medical and permanent) are available for employees who have suffered illness from work-related COVID-19 exposure and disease. Some long-term residuals have been named “long COVID.”

A recent study reported, “The sequelae after recovery from acute COVID-19 have been widely reported and have become an increasing concern. In our previous cohort study with a median follow-up time of six months after symptom onset, approximately three-quarters of COVID-19 survivors discharged from the hospital still had persisting symptoms, and patients who were critically ill during hospital stay had a higher risk of lung diffusion impairment and radiographic abnormality than did those who had lower disease severity.”

Symptoms of long COVID may appear even after mild or asymptomatic disease:

  • Fatigue.
  • Loss of sense of taste or smell.
  • Headache.
  • Sore throat.
  • Cough.
  • Runny nose.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Ear pain.
  • Sweats.
  • Rash.
  • Chills or shivering.
  • Feeling feverish.
  • Nausea.
  • Chest pain.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Joint or muscle pain.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Vision issues.
  • Anxiety-mental health.
  • Blood clots.

It has been estimated that 30% of COVID-10 survivors will result in post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection. The number may even be higher.

Proving an occupational exposure claim in a pandemic world: 'It’s airborne'

Advanced research is refocusing on how the workplace dynamic needs to shift to prevent occupational exposures in a pandemic world. A new study suggests that the airborne transmission of respiratory viruses plays a significant role in spreading COVID-19. Understanding the mechanisms of airborne transmission provides insight into occupational exposure and its causal relationship to disease in the workplace.    

The study was published in Science:

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed critical knowledge gaps in our understanding of and a need to update the traditional view of transmission pathways for respiratory viruses. The long-standing definitions of droplet and airborne transmission do not account for the mechanisms by which virus-laden respiratory droplets and aerosols travel through the air and lead to infection. In this review, we discuss current evidence regarding the transmission of respiratory viruses by aerosols — how they are generated, transported and deposited, as well as the factors affecting the relative contributions of droplet-spray deposition versus aerosol inhalation as modes of transmission.

Consult an attorney

If you have been exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace and are suffering from long COVID symptoms, you should consult an attorney as soon as possible to determine whether a formal claim can be filed on your behalf. 

Claimants' attorney Jon L. Gelman is the author of "New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Law" and co-author of the national treatise "Modern Workers’ Compensation Law." He is based in Wayne, New Jersey. This blog post is republished with permission.

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