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Ground Zero Workers Particularly Affected by COVID-19

September, 2020

It is well-known that 9/11 first responders, survivors, and residents and employees of Lower Manhattan all face health risks due to exposure to the toxic dust released from Ground Zero in the days and months after the attacks. But these individuals are also at a higher risk for developing complications from a more recent menace — COVID-19. While every patient is different, it is believed that Ground Zero workers are at greater risk from COVID-19 due to the myriad underlying conditions associated with their exposure. If you fall into this category, you may be at high risk for COVID-19. For more information about benefits available to Ground Zero workers, please contact a 9/11 attorney

Underlying Conditions Increase COVID-19 Risk 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that certain individuals are more likely to become severely ill or die from COVID-19. The first main category of high-risk individuals is adults over the age of 65. The second category is those who suffer from one or more of the following underlying conditions: 

  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Immunocompromised states from solid organ transplants 
  • Serious heart conditions (such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies) 
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Type 2 diabetes 

The CDC recommends that individuals who are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 limit their interactions with others as much as possible and take certain precautions when they must interact with others. 

Ground Zero Workers Are Falling Ill More than Expected and Staying Ill Longer

Many of the underlying conditions that put individuals at higher risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19 are also known 9/11-related conditions, including cancer and COPD. Recent data from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which tracks the long-term health effects of Ground Zero exposure on 9/11 first responders, shows that there are more than 1,400 confirmed COVID-10 cases and 44 deaths among this population, although that is likely an undercount. After a few early cases in March, the World Trace Center Health Program shifted its focus to screening enrollees for COVID-19. 

Besides suffering underlying conditions, Ground Zero workers also face a number of compounding factors related to COVID-19. Many of these individuals still work as police officers and firefighters and were heavily exposed to the virus in its early days. They are also more likely to be “long-haul” patients, with recovery taking weeks or even months. And even for those who have not contracted COVID-19, fear of the virus has kept many from seeking medical care or undergoing surgeries, which could further complicate their preexisting 9/11-related conditions. 

Contact a 9/11 Attorney for More Information about COVID-19 and 9/11-Related Illnesses

If you suffer a 9/11-related illness, you may be at an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. For more information about your healthcare options, please contact a 9/11 attorney at Pitta & Baione by using our online contact form or by calling us at 212-658-1766.