How will having COVID-19 affect your next medical?

Did you have COVID-19? If the answer is yes, how will it affect your next visit to the Aviation Medical Examiner?

The answers are in a new memo from the FAA that includes guidance for AMEs regarding pilots and air traffic controllers who had COVID-19.

The March 26, 2021, memo notes that “it is important to adequately evaluate and track the health of airmen and Air Traffic Control Specialists (ATCS) who have disclosed a history of COVID-19 infection for sequelae that may affect their ability to perform safety-sensitive functions.” Sequelae is an after effect of a disease, condition, or injury.

The memo notes that for people who are fully recovered — who have no residual symptoms or clinical findings — the AME can issue a medical certificate.

The AME also can issue a medical for pilots who are fully recovered following a prolonged case of COVID, as well as pilots who were hospitalized with COVID, as long as they were not admitted to intensive care.

In each of the cases where pilots are recovered from COVID, the AME must provide details about the length of stay in the hospital and treatments given.

If a pilot or ATC specialist was diagnosed with COVID and was admitted to the intensive care unit, the AME must defer the medical to FAA doctors. The FAA will request additional information, including from the hospital and treating physicians. The FAA will then determine whether to issue the airman medical certificate or whether a special issuance or denial is indicated, according to the memo.

AMEs also must defer medicals to pilots who are experiencing ongoing residual signs or symptoms of confirmed COVID-19, which “may include but are not limited to cardiovascular dysfunction, respiratory abnormalities, kidney injury, neurological dysfunction, psychiatric conditions (e.g., depression, anxiety, moodiness), or symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, cough, arthralgia, or chest pain.”

“We appreciate the FAA’s scaled approach to granting medical certificates for pilots and air traffic control specialists who have had COVID-19,” said Jim Coon, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association‘s senior vice president of government affairs. “This guidance allows AMEs to issue medical certificates for the vast majority of pilots and controllers who have had COVID-19, requiring deferral in only the most severe cases.”

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