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Biden says 'long Covid' could qualify as a disability under federal law

Those suffering from long-term symptoms could qualify for workplace and school accommodations and other support under federal law.

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden announced Monday that serious long-term Covid-19 cases could qualify as a disability, making federal protections and resources available to those suffering from the disease.

Speaking at an event at the White House celebrating the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, he said that lingering Covid symptoms, such as fatigue or brain fog, "can sometimes rise to the level of a disability."

"We're bringing agencies together to make sure Americans with long Covid who have a disability have access to the rights and resources that are due under the disability law, which includes accommodations and services in the workplace and school, and our health care system so they can live their lives in dignity," Biden said.

President Joe Biden speaks during an event marking the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in the Rose Garden of the White House on July 26, 2021.Stefani Reynolds / Bloomberg via Getty Images

The departments of Health and Human Services, Justice, Education and Labor released guidelines to help individuals experiencing effects of long-term Covid navigate federal benefits.

The guidance makes clear, however, that the so-called long Covid does not automatically qualify as a disability. The HHS guidance says that an "individualized assessment is necessary to determine whether a person’s long Covid condition or any of its symptoms substantially limits a major life activity."

The guidance says people with long Covid could qualify for "reasonable modifications" at work or in schools, as well as community-based resources that help with medical care and housing.

While most people who have been infected with Covid recover within weeks, some suffer from lingering symptoms. The long-term effects are wide-ranging, including such problems as joint pain, fevers, fatigue, double vision and even hair loss.

Little medical treatment exists for long-haul Covid patients. The World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said they are working to better understand the recovery phase of the illness.