Families of health workers sickened by Covid-19 have not been compensated US news


James “Mike” Anderson was an employee of the Philadelphia suburban hospital with a discreet but critical job: changing the air filters in the rooms where patients with Covid-19 were seen.At the end of March, the county where he worked reported up to 90 cases a day. Anderson, 51, handled air filters and other surfaces that may have been contaminated with the deadly virus, which is also known to hang in the air.


In April Anderson came down with what he thought was a cold, according to family lawyer David Stern. On April 13, he was rushed to hospital, where he died of Covid-19 acute respiratory distress syndrome, according to the county coroner. He left behind a wife and two children aged five and nine.

Anderson has been exposed to the virus at work, says the lawyer, making his family eligible for workers’ compensation benefits paid by his employer’s insurer.

“His family deserves that this income be replaced,” said Stern. “Their husband and father certainly cannot be.”

But in a June 16 response to Stern’s request for death benefits, the St Mary’s medical center denied all of the allegations.

As Covid-19’s death toll rises, sick workers and the families of the dead face yet another burden: struggling to gain benefits from workers’ compensation systems imposed in some states.

In interviews with lawyers and families across the country, KHN found that healthcare workers – including nurses’ aides, medical assistants and maintenance workers – were faced with refusals or long-term chances of getting benefits. In some cases, these services are equivalent to an ambulance bill. In others, they would provide a lifetime salary replacement for a spouse.

Legal experts say that in some states, Covid-19 belongs to a category of long-standing illnesses like the common cold or the flu – conditions not covered by workers’ compensation – with no plan to change that. Other states require workers to prove they got the virus at work, rather than from a family member or the community.

Contact tracer Kandice Childress, right, works at the Harris County Public Health Contact Center on June 25, 2020 in Houston. Photography: David J Phillip / AP

“We are asking people to risk their lives every day – not just doctors, nurses and first responders, but also nurses’ aides and grocery clerks,” said Laurie Pohutsky, a Michigan Democrat MP who introduced a bill to help essential workers get coverage more easily. “These people are heroes, but we really need to support these words with action. ”

In at least 16 states and Puerto Rico, authorities have taken steps to make it easier for workers infected with coronavirus to receive compensation for lost wages, hospital bills, or death. Similar bills are pending in other states, but some are facing opposition from business groups over costs.


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