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New Jersey 9/11 Responder Fighting COVID-19

August, 2020

Chris Stanek, a New Jersey corrections officer who previously volunteered for an ambulance squad at Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks, was diagnosed with COVID-19 and is currently battling the illness. Mr. Stanek, who is diabetic, began experiencing breathing problems and disorientation in late May, and “felt very warm to the touch,” according to his wife. He was taken to Inspira Medical Center in Vineland and later to Cooper University Hospital, where he was intubated, placed on a ventilator twice, and received continuous dialysis. Although few individuals survive the illness once it has progressed to such an advanced state. Mr. Stanek has been off the ventilator for several weeks, is breathing on his own, and no longer requires dialysis. 

9/11 Survivors Are at Greater Risk of COVID-19

9/11 survivors and first responders are at greater risk of COVID-19, both in their risk of contracting the virus and from suffering complications from it. Many 9/11 survivors suffer respiratory disorders as a result of breathing toxins from the polluted air in the exposure zone surrounding Ground Zero in the weeks and months after the attacks. Many of those toxins are known carcinogens and have led to lung and bronchial cancer. Because COVID-19 is also a respiratory illness, individuals with pre-existing respiratory illnesses are at greater risk of developing complications from the virus, including potentially deadly pneumonia. Several 9/11-related disorders are also associated with compromised immune systems, putting those individuals at greater risk of contracting the virus. 

9/11 survivors should take extra precautions to guard against COVID-19, particularly if they fall into a high-risk population (those over the age of 65 and those who suffer from an underlying medical condition). The CDC has identified the following conditions as those that put their sufferers at a greater risk of severe illness from COVID-19: 

  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Immunocompromised state
  • Obesity
  • Serious heart conditions
  • Sickle cell disease 
  • Type 2 diabetes 

Respiratory Conditions Covered by the 9/11 VCF

Due to the widespread instances of respiratory illnesses among 9/11 survivors, respiratory illnesses are a major category of covered conditions under the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF). Currently, the program covers the following respiratory illnesses

  • Asthma
  • Chronic cough syndrome
  • Chronic laryngitis
  • Chronic nasopharyngitis
  • Chronic respiratory disorder due to fumes/vapors
  • Chronic rhinosinusitis
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD)
  • Interstitial lung diseases (ILDs)
    • Sarcoidosis
    • Pulmonary Fibrosis
    • Asbestosis
    • Pneumonitis
  • Reactive airways dysfunction syndrome (RADS)
  • Sleep apnea exacerbated by or related to another condition in the list of aerodigestive disorders
  • Upper airway hyperreactivity
  • WTC-exacerbated and new-onset chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

The program also covers cancers of the respiratory system, including lung and bronchial cancer. 

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

For more information about the healthcare and compensation options for 9/11 survivors, please contact a 9/11 attorney at Pitta & Baione by using our online form or calling us at 844-982-2667.