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A study published in JAMA provides useful insights into the symptoms of long COVID. The findings provide insights for the development of remedies for millions of Americans, including many who are either working with symptoms or unable to work.
In a study of 9,764 adults, 37 symptoms, referred to as post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 (PASC), were reported more often by people who had a confirmed infection at least six months prior when compared to people who did not get COVID. Commonly reported symptoms included post-exertional malaise, fatigue, brain fog, dizziness, gastrointestinal upsets, palpitations, changes in sexual desire or capacity, loss of or change in smell or taste, thirst, chronic cough, chest pain and abnormal movements. Researchers identified clusters of symptoms with a range of complex health impacts.
The research team, funded by the National Institutes of Health in connection with its Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery (RECOVER) initiative, found that long COVID symptoms were more severe in study participants infected before the 2021 Omicron variant emerged. Estimates of long COVID prevalence among U.S. adults vary, but they tend to be average around 15 percent of all confirmed cases.
Leave and Accommodation
Some employed long COVID sufferers request leaves of absence or reasonable job accommodations. Under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), an eligible employee can take up to 12 work weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period. An employee with long COVID is likely to qualify for FMLA leave if symptoms affect their ability to perform their job, or for intermittent leave if their condition requires two or more doctor’s visits a year, as verified by their physician.
Long COVID qualifies as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when it affects major life activities and the ability to perform essential job functions. In April, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) updated its related guidance when the U.S. declared an end to the COVID-19 public health emergency.
For employees working with long COVID, the EEOC update recommends “low- or no-cost reasonable accommodations” such as a quiet workspace; use of noise-cancelling devices; uninterrupted work time; alternative lighting and glare reduction; rest breaks; flexible scheduling or telework; and the removal of “marginal functions” that involve physical exertion.
WorkCare’s occupational medicine physicians provide return-to-work assessments for employees with long COVID symptoms and recommendations on productive work environments. We also provide guidance to our Absence Management Solutions clients. Contact us to learn more.
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