More than two years after Georgia Leenders first became ill with the COVID virus, her heart is still racing at random times.
Often exhausted. You cannot digest some foods.
She says she gets a fever most days, and when her temperature crosses a certain point, her brain feels sticky.
These are the most commonly reported symptoms COVID long.
Linders had already noticed problems with her brain when she returned to work in the spring and summer of 2020. Her job requires her to be in touch all day, in coordination with health clinics serving the military. It was a lot of multitasking, something I excelled at before COVID.
After COVID, brain fog and fatigue have slowed her down significantly. In the fall of 2020, she was placed on probation. After 30 days, she thought her performance had improved. She definitely felt busy.
“But my supervisor did raise my productivity, which was like a quarter of what my co-workers were doing,” she says.
It was frustrating. Her symptoms worsened. She was given another 90-day probation period, but decided to take medical leave. On June 2, 2021, Linders was terminated.
She filed a complaint of discrimination with the government, but it was rejected. She could have filed a lawsuit but she didn’t make enough money to hire a lawyer.
Survey data indicates that millions of people are out of work due to prolonged COVID
With the number of people experiencing post-COVID symptoms on the rise, researchers and the government are trying to address the extent to which COVID is affecting the American workforce. It’s an urgent question, given the fragile state of the economy. For more than a year, employers have had problems with hiring, with vacancies persisting month after month.
Now, millions of people may be sidelined from their jobs due to the prolonged coronavirus outbreak. Katie Bach, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, relied on survey data from the Census Bureau, the Minneapolis Federal Reserve and the Lancet to come up with what she says is a conservative estimate: 4 million full-time equivalent workers out of work due to COVID are long.
“This is just a shocking number,” Bach says. “That’s 2.4% of the working population in the United States.”
Long COVID can be a disability under federal law
The Biden administration has already taken some steps to try to protect workers and keep them in business, Issuing directions It clarifies that the novel coronavirus for a long time can be a disability and that the relevant laws will be enforced. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, for example, employers must provide accommodations for workers with disabilities unless doing so poses an undue burden.
Linders is now thinking about what she should have asked after she got back to work. She was already working from home due to the pandemic, but perhaps she could have been given a lower workload. Perhaps her supervisor could have delayed taking disciplinary action.
“Maybe I wouldn’t have gotten as sick as I did, because I wouldn’t have induced myself to do the things I knew I couldn’t do, but I kept trying and trying,” she says.
Monica Verduzco Gutierrez, MD, professor of rehabilitation medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, has seen COVID play out in similar ways in other patients.
“If someone had to go back 100% when they started feeling a little better, they would quickly collapse and burn,” she says.
Locating the long-running COVID virus can be complicated
The problem with finding comforts for the long Covid virus is that there are a lot of unknowns. The duration and severity of symptoms vary greatly from person to person.
Gutierrez finds herself baffled by questions on disability forms that ask how long an individual may stay or how long their illness may last.
“This is a new case,” she says. “We do not know”.
Facilities in the workplace may include flexibility in one person’s workplace, extended leave, or a new role in a different department. The goal is to get workers back on the road, says Roberta Echeveri, CEO of Diversified Management Group, a disability management consulting firm.
But with the prolonged coronavirus, it’s hard to gauge whether an employee is actually on the way back.
“It’s not a sprain or strain where someone turns their ankle and we know they’ll be at that point in x number of months,” she says. “It’s not like – someone was helping move a patient, hurt their back, and they can’t do that kind of work anymore. They need to do something else.”
With prolonged COVID illness, symptoms come and go, and new symptoms may appear.
The Department of Labor is urging employers not to exclude facilities for employees who do not obtain an official long-term coronavirus diagnosis.
“Instead of determining whether an employee has a disability, your focus should be on the employee’s limitations and whether there are effective amenities that will enable the employee to perform essential job functions,” says the Department of Labor at A long COVID guide for employers.
It may be difficult to get accommodations for some jobs
However, not all employers have the means to offer the type of accommodation an employee might need given his or her symptoms.
Bilal Qizilbash believes that he would have been fired long ago if he had not been the head of his own company.
“The majority of my team have no idea that I work out of bed most of the time,” says Qizilbash, a longtime commuter driver who has coronavirus and suffers from chronic pain that he compares to wasp stings.
As the CEO of a small company that makes nutritional supplements, Qizilbash says he tries to be compassionate and at the same time ruthlessly effective. He says that having a single employee whose productivity is seriously compromised could ultimately negatively affect the entire company.
In other professions, it can be difficult to find suitable accommodations, however generous.
In South Florida, Karen Bischoff was a new recruit with the Palm Beach Gardens Fire Rescue team in 2020 when she contracted COVID, likely in training, she says. Coming from a family of firefighters, it has always been her dream to do the same. But Covid’s prolonged illness has left her with severe brain fog, fatigue, light-headedness, and a host of other symptoms incompatible with firefighting.
“I couldn’t run into a burning building if I couldn’t regulate my temperature,” she says. “If I can’t control the high blood pressure, I can’t raise the patient or else I will pass out.”
Bischoff was fired for not meeting performance-related testing standards and has since become Defending long transport ships for COVID.
The Ministry of Labor crowdsources ideas on how to keep workers in business
Taryn Williams, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Special Needs Employment Policy, wants to hear the opinions of workers and employers. Until mid-August, the Ministry of Labor is holding Online Dialoguesolicit input on policies that may help address workplace challenges arising from the prolonged COVID.
“We want to be responsive,” Williams says. “We’re thinking about how we can support these workers in a transformative period in their lives.”
She says the government has faced situations in the past when there was a sudden rise in the number of people who needed accommodations to work. Large numbers of military personnel have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan with TBI, for example. Times like these have led to shifts in disability policy in the United States, says Williams.
From her home in La Crosse, Wisconsin, Linders contributed a number of comments to the Department of Labor’s online dialogue. Like Bischoff, she also spends a lot of time helping other tall COVID carriers navigate what she’s been through, including qualifying for Social Security disability insurance.
Her advocacy helps her feel as though she’s contributing something to society, even if this isn’t the life she wants.
“I don’t want to be disabled,” she says. “I don’t want to take money from the government.” “I am only 45 years old. I would have worked at least another 20 years.”
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