Leave Policies and COVID-19 “Long-Haulers” Who Don’t Recover Quickly


There are some people who contract the virus and don’t recover in two or three weeks like most patients do, but instead continue to experience a wide array of symptoms, long after testing negative for the virus. They are not contagious, but are still suffering symptoms 100 days after falling sick. They call themselves the “long-haulers”. Common symptoms include fatigue, chest pain and brain fog. More rare but alarming are fluctuations in blood pressure and heart rate from 30 to 200 without activity.

Their symptoms can’t always be explained by doctors, who are at a loss on how to treat them, some are told they’re simply suffering from anxiety. That’s why many long haulers are relieved when they learn about 84 thousand member Facebook group Survivor Corps, where they find support and information from others with similar problems, and no longer feel like they’re crazy.

If you are thinking these patients are older or have underlying health conditions you would be wrong, as which patients become long haulers is highly unpredictable. Doctors are struck by the number of young (their 20’s and 30’s), healthy, active people who fall into this category, which some researchers estimate could be between 10-15% of all cases. That’s a lot of people considering we currently have over 5 million cases in the US.

The implications for the workplace are ominous. If a significant chunk of the workforce-age population were to suffer debilitating symptoms that would prevent them from returning to work, –either because they are exhausted or unable to access their brain capacity– that would be a societal and economic burden. We would be looking at a looming wave of disability or chronic unemployment.

Employers will need to look at their leave policies and be aware that not every COVID-19 recovering employee will be able to return to work in two weeks or be able to perform the same job with the same skill, and will need to adjust accordingly. It’s possible that some of these cases may be severe enough that they need to be treated as a disability under ADA.

Please pass along this information about how harmful this virus can be. This is not something everyone can bounce back from, even if they are young and healthy. Some unlucky few will become long-haulers, and reading their stories, you would not wish that on anyone. Wear a mask.

Originally published on the HR Box blog.


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