Thousands of 9/11 first responders and survivors, already suffering from long-term respiratory problems and other complications due to exposure to Ground Zero toxins, now find themselves at additional risk due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
People with lung diseases like COPD, asthma, or lung cancer or with weakened immune systems are at the greatest risk of complications from COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. As we know, lung cancer and respiratory issues are at the core of the many post-9/11 illnesses afflicting our heroes.
Donald Campbell, a Barasch & McGarry client who worked at Ground Zero for six months as an FBI agent on an evidence-response team, is among those worried about their enhanced risk during the pandemic. “I have interstitial lung disease and I also came down with skin cancer. Consequently, I am sheltering in place a good bit,” Campbell said in a recent news article that placed him among an estimated 20,000 9/11 survivors living in Florida with similar long-term health conditions.
It’s not just cancer that leaves survivors vulnerable to COVID-19. Chemotherapy takes a toll as well, leaving the immune system compromised or even destroyed almost completely. Jeffrey Conti, a 9/11 responder and Barasch & McGarry client, was diagnosed this summer with throat cancer that required radiation and chemotherapy. He also suffers from COPD and asthma as a result of toxic exposure. “My immune system is zero,” Conti told a Florida news outlet.
Conti and others in the 9/11 community are finding it hard to come to terms with the way the virus has been handled in the U.S. “Coming from a job where you put people before yourself, I find it mind-boggling that people tend to be selfish about this — putting on a mask is such a simple thing,” he said.
As the seasons change and the weather gets cooler, no one really knows whether the situation will worsen or improve, but one thing is certain: 9/11 survivors will continue to be more vulnerable than most and all of us should do what we can to protect them.
If you are a 9/11 survivor concerned about COVID-19, please don’t hesitate to seek medical advice. And our attorneys are always ready to provide legal guidance. You can reach Barasch & McGarry’s New York office by calling [ln::phone] or contacting us online. Initial consultations are free.