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When Does COVID-19 Become A Disability? ‘Long-Haulers’ Push For Answers And Benefits

When COVID-19 first arrived in the U.S., Jodee Pineau-Chaisson was working as the director of social services for a nursing home in western Massachusetts. By the middle of April, residents at the Center for Extended Care in Amherst were getting sick.

In early May, Pineau-Chaisson was tapped for a particular duty: “I was asked to go onto the COVID-19 units to do FaceTime calls so they could say goodbye to their family members,” she recalls. “I was very scared.”

She was worried about contracting the virus but also felt like she owed it to her residents. So, at 55 years old and with no preexisting conditions, Pineau-Chaisson put on an N95 mask and a white jumpsuit and she entered the units to help. Three days later, she had COVID-19.

She says she’s certain she was exposed at the nursing home since, at the time, she wasn’t seeing anyone outside of work or shopping in stores, and she’d even moved out of her house and into an apartment to avoid bringing the virus home to her wife. Thinking back, Pineau-Chaisson wonders if she was sweating too much, which made it harder for her mask to work well. Or, perhaps, she got too close while trying to facilitate the FaceTime calls.

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