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Local long COVID patients applaud Biden's announcement to include them in ADA, but will it be enough?

President Biden made the announcement Monday
Joe Biden
Posted at 6:00 AM, Jul 28, 2021

CLEVELAND — The Biden administration released new guidance aimed at supporting Americans with long-haul COVID-19 symptoms.

In a press conference on Monday for the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, President Biden said some of the so-called COVID long-haulers may qualify for help from the federal government.

RELATED: White House celebrates 31st anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act

For Teresa Coffey, the news came as a sign that help may be on the way.

"When Drew first got diagnosed, we just figured it was a short-term thing," she said.

Coffey's teenage son Drew got COVID in December of 2020. During his recovery, everything stopped.

"When it's bad, we have to cancel things," she said. "We have to, pretty much — his anxiety being high. People have to stay home with him. People have to be near him so that if something happens, he feels comfortable."

Drew stayed home from school and work. His gastrointestinal symptoms, anxiety and fatigue made daily tasks difficult. Coffey and her husband had to change schedules to care for Drew.

"I work in the morning and then take the afternoon off," she said over Zoom the day after the Rose Garden announcement from the president. "My husband works and then takes the evenings and we try to tag-team coverage. You're — just all in."

News 5 first talked to Drew about the new clinic at Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital. The clinic is just for kids and teens with long-haul COVID symptoms. People identified as long-haul patients have symptoms from COVID-19 for more than 12 weeks.

REALTED: Local hospital to open first clinic for COVID-19 'long haul' pediatric patients

"As a parent of a child, it's hard, I don't have the answers," Coffey said through tears. "That's what they look to a parent for."

But she sees the announcement as a light at the end of the tunnel.

"I think the president coming and actually recognizing it and standing behind it is huge," Coffey said. "It's huge for the people that support the long haul, and I'm sure for the long haulers."

Guidance from the Department of Health and Human Services indicates long-haul COVID qualifies under the ADA if it "substantially limits one or more major life activities."

While Coffey sees the announcement as a countdown, Yvonka Hall isn't done counting the days.

"Today is day 165," Hall said, sitting on her porch on Tuesday.

Hall was caring for her 89-year-old grandmother when she contracted COVID-19 in February.

"Thank God she's fine," Hall said. "She turned 90."

News 5 sat down with Hall in early July to hear about her journey and her reasons for creating a COVID support group for Black women. For her, the announcement is an acknowledgment of the issues long haul COVID can cause, however, "They sound good on paper but in practice, how is this going to play out in real life? In real-time?" Hall said.

Hall knows 40 people who died from the virus and more who are saddled with thousands of dollars in medical debt. She said coverage under the ADA is not enough.

The HHS guidance has a list of what the department considers to be major life activities, including but not limited to caring for oneself, eating, writing, sleeping, or working. Not everyone will qualify under the new guidance. An individual assessment is required.