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COVID-19 Still Threatens Union Workers in the 9/11 Community

July 5, 2022 | Michael Barasch

COVID-19 continues to threaten 9/11 responders and survivors who were diagnosed with cancer or respiratory illness from their exposure to Ground Zero toxins.

Many of the people at risk are union members – first responders deployed to the World Trade Center area and workers who returned to office buildings, classrooms, and job sites in Lower Manhattan.

Told the air near Ground Zero was safe to breathe, these union members learned only later that their exposure increased their risk of developing 68 types of cancer and many respiratory illnesses.

Nearly twenty years later, COVID-19 attacked the immune and respiratory systems of 9/11 victims who were uniquely susceptible to severe illness, extended hospitalization, and even death.

Within a few months of the pandemic arriving in the United States, hundreds of 9/11 responders and survivors had been killed.

A recent study by Stony Brook University’s World Trade Center Health and Wellness Program also found that 9/11 responders and survivors who have chronic health conditions from their Ground Zero exposure have a higher risk of experiencing Long COVID.

As fellow members of the 9/11 community, we have a shared responsibility to support each other. 

Encourage your friends and colleagues who were in Lower Manhattan on and after 9/11 to access vaccinations and booster shots, as well as free rapid tests to know their COVID status.

If you know someone who has been diagnosed with COVID, remind them about the antiviral therapies demonstrated to reduce the severity of illness that are available from their health care provider.

In addition, we must inform the community that every 9/11 responder and survivor – even if currently healthy – has the right to register with the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF).

The victim fund offers tax-free awards for pain and suffering, lost earnings, and benefits for surviving spouses and family members.

By March 2022, there were 83,371 responders and 33,724 survivors enrolled in the WTC Health Program. This means there are still about 20,000 responders and 350,000 survivors (fewer than 10%) who have not yet enrolled.

Enrollment in the health program, which provides free initial screening for responders, provides crucial information to medical researchers, resulting in the addition of prostate cancer, uterine cancer, and other illnesses as covered conditions. 

Barasch & McGarry successfully advocated on behalf of families who had lost someone to COVID, allowing them to file a claim with the 9/11 VCF if the 9/11-related illness was a “contributing factor” in their death.

If you are diagnosed with any 9/11-related illness, we urge you to enroll in the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program, which offers free medical care for 9/11-related illnesses at clinics across the United States.  

Barasch & McGarry, Lawyers for the 9/11 Community, which represents more than 30,000 members of the 9/11 community, has proudly advocated for union members for more than twenty-five years.

Next week, we will discuss the different exposure zones for the 9/11 VCF and the WTC Health Program, and how to access these resources.

Visit or call 800-314-0683 today.

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