Guidance on “Long COVID” as a Disability Under the ADA, Section 504, and Section 1557, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Justice (July 2021)

U.S. Department of HHS and U.S. Department of Justice | Statutes, Regulations, and Agency Guidelines

Recognizing that many people who contract COVID-19 continue to have significant chronic illness months after infection, HHS and DOJ issued guidance to clarify that "long COVID" can be a covered disability for purposes of protection from discrimination in public accommodations (such as hotels and nursing homes) and by government agencies. To counter the flurry of "emergency" state laws passed last year to insulate operators of hospitals and nursing homes from harming patients during the COVID pandemic, they emphasize that all federal disabiliy laws apply even during emergencies. The following text is taken from the agencies' introduction to this guidance:

"Although many people with COVID-19 get better within weeks, some people continue to experience symptoms that can last months after first being infected, or may have new or recurring symptoms at a later time. This can happen to anyone who has had COVID-19, even if the initial illness was mild.  People with this condition are sometimes called “long-haulers.” This condition is known as “long COVID.”

In light of the rise of long COVID as a persistent and significant health issue, the Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice have joined together to provide this guidance. 

This guidance explains that long COVID can be a disability under Titles II (state and local government) and III (public accommodations) of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), and Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Section 1557).  Each of these federal laws protects people with disabilities from discrimination. This guidance also provides resources for additional information and best practices. This document focuses solely on long COVID, and does not address when COVID-19 may meet the legal definition of disability."