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Catch Covid at Work? Here is what you should do

Catch Covid at Work? Here is what you should do

You may be eligible for compensation. We are available for free consultations over the phone. Call us today at 267-350-6600.

Can Doctors, Nurses, and Other Healthcare Workers Get Workers Comp for Coronavirus?

The short answer is—it is likely.

Healthcare workers should have no problem showing that exposure to COVID-19 is part of their regular work duties. Because the novel coronavirus is now widespread, the only point of contention will be whether the healthcare worker contracted it while at work. Those carrying and transmitting the virus may be diagnosed or undiagnosed, symptomatic or asymptomatic, it does not matter – the disease has proven to be highly contagious.

Those likely to be eligible for workers’ comp include:

  • laboratory techs handling samples of COVID-19 victims,
  • medical transport personnel transporting COVID-19 victims,
  • coroners performing autopsies on COVID-19 victims.

In fact, anyone in the healthcare industry exposed to a patient’s saliva or mucus or fecal matter – think physical therapists, dentist and dental hygienists and assistants, orderlies, and the like – may be eligible for workers’ comp if they contract the coronavirus.

The attorneys at HGSK have helped thousands of workers prove that their disease or illness was contracted on the job. We can get you the benefits you need and deserve if you fall ill. Call us to discuss your case.

Will Workers’ Comp Cover the COVID-19 Coronavirus for other Workers?

In order for an injury or illness to be compensated through worker’s compensation, it must happen or be contracted in the course of the employee’s usual work. Some occupational diseases will be covered as a result.

COVID-19 will likely be treated as an occupational disease. For an occupational disease to be compensable under worker’s comp, it must be proved to be caused or aggravated by work conditions or the work itself, and it must be more likely for an employee to contract that disease in the course of his or her employment than otherwise. Carpal tunnel syndrome, radiation illness, and mesothelioma are three common examples of compensable occupational diseases.

Workers in Professions Where Social Distancing is Not Possible May Be Covered Under Workers’ Comp

In some professions, social distancing is impossible. For example, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), firefighters, police rendering first aid, and other first-responders are required to be in close contact with people as part of their job. If these workers are infected with coronavirus that way, they will likely be covered under worker’s comp. In-home healthcare aides and employees of assisted living or rehabilitation facilities will likely be covered by workers’ comp for the same reason.

What about massage therapists? Chiropractors? Acupuncturists? They may also have a worker’s comp claim. What about a barber?

What about employees exposed to a high-density population like schools or prisons, where keeping a six-foot distance from people is not possible?

If you work in a profession where it is impossible to adhere to social distancing, i.e., keep six feet away from people, and you’ve contracted COVID-19, we can help you show that COVID-19 was contracted while performing your regular duties and that it was more likely than not that you would contract it considering that asymptomatic people transmit the disease unknowingly. Call us – we can help you get the benefits you need.

Showing that Coronavirus was Contracted at Work May Be Difficult

Worker’s compensation only kicks in when the illness is contracted at work or in the course of work. The coronavirus is widespread already, and we now know that people who have contracted COVID-19 may be asymptomatic for up to two weeks, all the while spreading the contagion. A healthcare worker may encounter many people at work and many people outside of work who are unknowingly spreading the disease.

If a healthcare worker ultimately contracts the illness, he or she will have to prove that the infection happened at work, which can be difficult. Circumstances specific to a healthcare worker’s workplace, such as the availability of protective gear, could impact the decision. Reach out to our office if you’d like to discuss your circumstances and how we may be able to assist you in getting workers’ comp benefits. You can call us at 267-350-6600.

Other Occupations are Likely Not Covered – But May Be

Most professions do not require workers to treat or to be in close proximity to people. If an infected client, customer, or co-worker shows up to your place of work and exposes you to the virus, but if merely encountering another person at work is not related to your job description, workers’ comp may not apply.

The upshot is, the more attenuated the profession is from healthcare or professions where social distancing is not possible, the less likely the worker will have a worker’s comp claim due to contracting the coronavirus. However, whether COVID-19 was contracted at work as a part of regular duties is a fact-specific inquiry. Don’t just give up – consult with an experienced worker’s comp lawyer about your particular case.

All Workers Should Inquire About COVID-19 Disability Pay

While this is a situation that is changing daily, it appears that many employers are offering incentives for employees who don’t feel well to just stay home, in the form of short-term disability insurance. Receiving disability pay is not contingent upon whether you contracted the illness at work, so, for example, if you are required to be quarantined due to contracting the coronavirus, and you cannot work, you can collect disability pay.

Some states provide short-term disability benefits, which are usually a percentage of your weekly salary. These states are California, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Hawaii. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania does not.

New Federal Assistance for Workers with COVID-19

As of this writing, a new federal bill called the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“the Act”) just passed. It addresses the current and growing economic and health crisis by providing free COVID-19 testing, paid sick leave, expanded unemployment benefits, and nutritional assistance for those with food insecurity.

Free Coronavirus Testing

Some features of the Act regarding free COVID-19 testing include:

  • A 6.2% increase in federal funding to state Medicaid
  • CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) will temporarily cover COVID-19 testing
  • $60 million allocated to the Department of Veterans Affairs for testing veterans,
  • $64 million allocated to the Indian Health Service for testing members of Native American tribes
  • $1 billion allocated to the National Disaster Medical System for reimbursing testing costs for those without health insurance.

Expanded Paid Sick Leave and Paid Family Leave

The Act requires employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide two weeks’ worth of paid sick leave if employees are unable to work because they: Are quarantined, have contracted the coronavirus or have symptoms, are caring for someone with the coronavirus or showing symptoms, or have children attending schools that are now closed. These employers will get paid tax credits in return for providing expanded sick leave.

Those who are self-employed will receive a tax credit in the amount of two weeks’ paid sick leave.

The Act also requires employers to provide up to three months of paid family and medical leave, equivalent to no less than two-thirds of an employee’s pay.

Expanded Unemployment Benefits

The Act provides almost $1 billion in grants to states to extend and expand unemployment benefits.

Expanded Nutrition Assistance to Combat Food Insecurity

Many children rely on their school for one to multiple meals a day. Most schools are now closed indefinitely. To address this, the Act allocates nearly $500,000 to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

Another $400 million funds a new emergency food assistance program that will be active from now until September 30, 2021. Eligible households include those with children whose school has been closed for at least 5 consecutive days due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Act also provides $100 million in nutrition assistance grants for U.S. territories of the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and American Samoa.

Further, the Act relaxes requirements for eligibility for benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Is Your Employer Forcing You to Go To Work?

The media has reported many instances where employers tell their employees that they must show up to work and that if they don’t show up, they must take vacation time or use sick days.

People who are more vulnerable to COVID-19 – the elderly and those with underlying health conditions – are fearful of being exposed to the coronavirus by being in proximity to their co-workers, or by touching surfaces that an infected co-worker has touched. Their fear is justified, as it can take up to two weeks for an infected person to show signs of the illness, and during that time, that person is highly contagious.

What remedy do you have under these circumstances? If you are considered vulnerable to the coronavirus due to your age or medical condition, the Act may provide you with a way to stay home without using vacation time or sick days. Contact your state’s unemployment office about your situation to determine whether you may be eligible for benefits because your employer is unreasonably increasing the likelihood of you being exposed to an illness that is likely fatal to you, given your condition.

What is the COVID-19 Coronavirus?

COVID-19, which is the name of the novel (new) coronavirus, has been categorized as a pandemic by the World Health Organization and as a national emergency by the U.S. president. As of this writing (March 16, 2020) there have been more than 6,500 deaths worldwide, most of which were caused by a combination of the coronavirus and pre-existing health conditions. In the U.S., more than 4,000 cases of coronavirus have been reported, with 70 recorded deaths.

The CDC advises keeping 6 feet away from others right now because COVID-19 is currently believed to be transmitted by bodily fluids such as saliva or mucus droplets in the air. A sneeze, a cough, a failure to wash hands after blowing one’s nose – any of these can result in COVID-19 being transmitted directly to another person, or onto a surface that someone else then touches. Someone who has contracted COVID-19 and is asymptomatic can also spread the virus to others.

There can be no doubt that healthcare workers will be exposed to the coronavirus in all of these ways, and for many of them, it is not possible to keep 6 feet away from infected patients. If they contract the illness, can they collect worker comp? Who else might be covered?

What are the Symptoms of Coronavirus?

The COVID-19 coronavirus is a pneumonia-like respiratory infection related to the common cold and also to MERS (Middle East Respiratory System). It is not a flu, like the avian flu (H1N1) or the swine flu. However, victims can present flu-like symptoms.

Symptoms of the COVID-19 coronavirus occur anywhere from two to 14 days after being exposed, and include:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Aches and pains
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches

This chart, provided by the WHO, covers how to distinguish the COVID-19 coronavirus from a common cold or the flu.

What Should I Do If I Think I Have the Coronavirus?

If you have some of these symptoms and think you may have contracted COVID-19, you should self-quarantine and call your doctor. If symptoms are severe, call your doctor or the hospital to arrange for you to visit.

Again, if you believe you contracted COVID-19 at work, you may have a worker’s compensation claim. Call us to discuss your case.

Consult with an Experienced Worker’s Comp and Disability Attorney

Know that while the illness will likely not be fatal, you will require medical attention if symptoms become severe. Additionally, you will have to self-quarantine for the length of the illness missing no less than a few weeks of work. These are two important reasons to file a worker’s compensation claim.

Under current circumstances, we can provide free phone consultations. Call us at267-350-6600 and talk to us about your COVID-19 and work situation. We will make sure you get the benefits you need.