By Trevor Hunnicutt
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -President Joe Biden said Monday the White House is pushing for people with long-term symptoms of COVID-19 to be protected against discrimination, as he marked the anniversary of a landmark law for people with disabilities.
U.S. agencies will coordinate to ensure people suffering from severe long-term health problems are protected after the end of their infections with the novel coronavirus, he said.
“Many Americans who seemingly recovered from the virus still face lingering challenges like breathing problems, brain fog, chronic pain or fatigue,” Biden said. “These conditions can sometimes rise to the level of a disability.”
Around one in 10 COVID-19 patients are still unwell 12 weeks after their acute infection, and many suffer symptoms for far longer, according to a World Health Organization-led report published in February.
Biden spoke at a Rose Garden event celebrating the 31st anniversary of the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which makes it illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities in public accommodation, employment, transportation and community living. Nearly 57 million Americans had some form of disability in 2010, the U.S. Census bureau reported.
The new effort will be aimed at making sure people with those long-term COVID-19 symptoms “have access to the rights and resources that are due under the disability law,” Biden said.
That could include mandating new accommodations for those disabilities at restaurants, in workplaces, at school and in the healthcare system.
The White House did not immediately provide additional details on the program.
“This was a Democratic bill signed by a Republican president,” Biden said. “For our nation, the ADA is more than a law” he said. “It’s a testament to our character as a people, our character as Americans.”
The effort comes as the fast-spreading Delta variant and slower uptake of vaccines has threatened to derail the administration’s efforts to control the pandemic.
(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Additional reporting by Steve Holland and Merdie Nzanga; Editing by Heather Timmons and Dan Grebler)