Emily Rice Published

W.Va. Among States With Highest Prevalence Of Long COVID

A doctor writes a note on paperwork with a black pen.The Washington Post/Getty Images

West Virginia workers suffering from Long COVID, or long-haul COVID-19, may be eligible for workplace protections and accommodations under federal law.

Long COVID can have varying symptoms that impact work performance, such as fatigue, difficulty concentrating and shortness of breath.

A recent analysis published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that West Virginia was among the states with the highest prevalence rate of Long Covid in the country. 

In 2022, nearly 6.9 percent of U.S. adults reported ever experiencing Long COVID while a range of 8.9 to 10.6 percent of West Virginians reported symptoms.

According to Tracie DeFreitas, a program leader with the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), a service that is funded by the Office of Disability Employment Policy, job accommodation can take on many forms.

“There are some general categories or sort of common types of accommodations that are available or might be requested by individuals that can include things like job restructuring, where you might be modifying when or how certain job functions are performed,” DeFreitas said.

Workers may have difficulty working the same way they did before and may be entitled to temporary or longer-term support that can help them stay on the job or return to work once ready. Federal laws like the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provide protections and accommodations for workers with Long COVID.

“Once a person with Long COVID asks for an accommodation, the employer and the individual will engage in that accommodation process,” DeFreitas said. “It’s a basically they take those steps to kind of figure out what the individual’s needs are, and in doing that, there is a series of sort of asking relevant questions to help them the employer understand what the individual’s needs are to kind of work through the situation to figure out what the person’s limitations are, how those are affecting job duties.”

Accommodations for Long COVID may include telework, flexible schedules and job restructuring.

“When we think about accommodations, we really want to keep an open mind and be creative,” DeFreitas said. “We know that telework, for example, has been an accommodation that can be beneficial to many people with disabilities, but especially those with Long COVID. It can help to sort of decrease or eliminate commuting to work, which can oftentimes deplete energy levels. And so this might allow someone to return to work sooner than anticipated.”

Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting with support from Marshall Health.