The Pandemic is Retreating , but Long Haul COVID is here to stay

As we move forward from the pandemic, long haul COVID is emerging with implications to individuals’ health and employment. According to the CDC, 13.3% of individuals after infection are likely to develop long haul COVID.  To be classified as long haul, COVID-19 symptoms need to be present for a minimum of four weeks after initial recovery and cannot be caused by any other known diagnoses. There are three ways long haul COVID manifests:

  • COVID-19 itself causing cell damage and lingering symptoms
  • Symptoms related to chronic hospitalization
  • Symptoms emerging after recovery

Some of the most common symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, memory and concentration struggles, depression and anxiety, and organ damage. There are no clear answers to duration or future implications of long haul COVID. However, with potential accommodations, many are able return to work.

In December 2021 the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission updated their technical assistance to incorporate long haul COVID as a potential disability covered under the American with Disability Act. Additionally, job protection may be accessed through the family medical leave act (FMLA) regardless of an individual having intermittent or ongoing symptoms. There is currently no exhaustive list of job accommodations. Thus far, common accommodations include providing new equipment and devices, or device and equipment modification, changing the workspace, job restructuring, and part-time or modified work schedules.  Regardless of symptoms, as always, accommodations need to be individualized and documentation requirements vary based on the employer.

When looking at job accommodations, it is important to consider job functions along with the presenting long haul COVID symptoms.  The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is a great resource to look at individualized support needs and assistive technology. While there are still many unknowns with long haul COVID, the most common symptoms are able be managed with supports and job accommodations.

Some of the most common accommodations along with assistive technology are listed below and these make return to work possible:   

  • Job Restructuring
  • Telework, Work from Home, Working Remotely
  • Flexible Schedule
  • Worksite Redesign / Modified Workspace
  • Task Rotation and separation
  • Memory Apps
  • Written Communication
  • Checklist/Calendars
  • Modified Break Schedule
  • Job Coaches