As 2021 gives way to 2022, we bid farewell to the COVID-19 presumption set forth in Minn. Stat. 176.011, subd.15(f) for certain healthcare workers and first responders which will sunset as of 11:59 p.m. on December 31, 2021. The presumption was originally slated to sunset on May 8, 2021, but was extended to December 31 by the legislature and signed by Governor Walz on April 26, 2021. In essence, the COVID-19 presumption will not apply to any injuries after January 1, 2022, and workers in occupations where the presumption applied may still assert claims of workplace COVID-19 exposure resulting in a personal injury but will not have the presumption of compensability and will have the burden of proving that they contracted COVID-19 due to workplace exposure.
While the sun going down on the COVID-19 presumption effectively ends presumed workers’ compensation COVID-19 injuries for covered occupations when the calendar turns to 2022, it does not foreclose future claims for work related COVID-19 personal injuries. Without the presumption, all employees will have the burden of proving all elements necessary to collect workers’ compensation benefits for contracting the COVID-19 illness, specifically that the illness arose out of and in the course of employment. Also, given the drastic increase in cases and hospitalizations, the legislature may take up the issue of renewing the COVID-19 presumption for certain healthcare workers’ and first responders when it reconvenes at the end of January. Felhaber will continue to monitor this situation and update you as developments warrant.