Is COVID-19 an occupational disease?
The statute covering occupational disease, La. R.S. 1031.1(B), defines occupational disease as follows: "An occupational disease means only that disease or illness which is due to causes and conditions characteristic of and peculiar to the particular trade, occupation, process, or employment in which the employee is exposed to such disease." Accordingly, there will be some employees in the City of New Orleans and the State of Louisiana who may be covered under workers' compensation if the risks of their employment are unique and greater than the risks to the general population. Physicians, nurses, others in the medical field as well as EMS workers and first responders will most likely be covered should they contract the virus due a direct exposure that would otherwise not have occurred had they not had the enhanced and elevated risks characteristic of and associated with their work duties. For example, an EMS worker transporting an infected patient would likely be covered under occupational disease. However, those workers who contract the disease as a result of simply being in contact with the general population would probably not be covered.