MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – FOX10 News is committed to getting the facts about how the government’s response to the coronavirus affects regular people.
Here is investigative reporter Brendan Kirby with Friday’s installment:
QUESTION: We’re learning more about the long-term health effects of COVID-19. Dying isn’t the only thing we have to worry about.
BRENDAN: That’s correct. There are two new studies out of Germany that offer a sobering glimpse of the problems some patients have ahead of them after recovering from the illness.
The first, published this week on the Journal of the American Medical Association Network, examined 100 MRIs of people who had recovered and compared them to 100 non-COVID patients with similar backgrounds.
Two months after recovering, many in the COVID-19 group had troubling signs of heart damage: 78 had structural changes to the organ; 76 had evidence of a biomarker typical in people after they’ve had heart attacks; and 60 had signs of inflammation.
The other study, which appeared in the same journal, analyzed autopsy results from 39 people who died from COVID-19. They had an average age of 85, and 24 of the 39 had high levels of the virus in their hearts.
Taken together, these studies offer more compelling evidence that this is much more than just a respiratory disease.
QUESTION: We’re also learning that the coronavirus is more than one thing.
BRENDAN: That’s right. Research this month by King’s College in London identified six distinct types of the virus by using a machine-learning algorithm to analyze the responses of 1,600 people in Britain and the United States with confirmed COVID-19 cases.
This could explain the wide variety of symptoms. The six clusters break down like this:
- People who have flu-like symptoms with no fever.
- People who have flu-like symptoms with fever.
- People who have gastrointestinal symptoms.
- People designated “severe level one” with fatigue.
- People designated “severe level two” with confusion.
- People designated “severe level three” with abdominal and respiratory symptoms.
QUESTION: We have gotten very specific questions from viewers about unemployment. First, a viewer wants to know if getting disability makes you ineligible for unemployment benefits.
BRENDAN: In most cases, yes.
Generally, you must be able and available to work, and you must be seeking full-time employment in order to receive unemployment compensation benefits.
Unemployment is for people who are able and willing to work but who are not. Disability is for people who physically can’t work.
The Coronavirus, Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act waived a lot of the ordinary rules for unemployment, such as having to actively seek work. And it greatly expanded eligibility to groups of people who ordinarily are not able to get unemployment. But the disabled was not one of those groups.
There might be some wiggle room, however. A 1999 U.S. Supreme Court decision held that disability claims did not “inherently conflict” with other types of benefits. But it would be up to the claimant to prove eligibility. For example, if a disability prevents you from doing certain kinds of work and you can’t find suitable employment, you may be able to get a reduced disability payment and apply for unemployment at the same time.
But it is going to be difficult in most cases.
QUESTION: The other question has to do with a message that a viewer has received on his unemployment “Claim Tracker” online. It states that the following pending issue is stopping payment on his claim: “UCX provisions.” What does that mean?
BRENDAN: This was a new on for me. UCX stands for a program called “Unemployment Compensation for Ex-Servicemembers.”
It is designed to provide unemployment benefits to veterans who are transitioning back into the civilian labor market. It’s available to people who were honorably discharged, served on active duty or active Reserve status and completed at least 180 days of continuous service.
The issue here is that the man hasn’t been in the service since 1966. He applied for unemployment when he got laid off from his job as a photographer because of the pandemic. It’s been 14 weeks, with the same message and instructions that he’ll be notified only if additional information is needed.
Tara Hutchison, a spokeswoman for the Alabama Department of Labor, told FOX10 News that this is probably an error; perhaps the claimant mistakenly indicated he had been in the military within the previous 18 months.
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to fix this. The man’s wife told FOX10 News that they’ve tried calling, faxing and even visiting the local office. This has been going on 14 weeks with no payment.
(If you have a #COVIDINFO question for investigative reporter Brendan Kirby, email him at Brendan.Kirby@fox10tv.com)