People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities are at Higher Risk of Death from Covid-19

NPR has published an alarming analysis of data from two states that found that people with disabilities have died from coronavirus at about twice the rate of nondisabled peers who contracted the virus in Pennsylvania; in New York, it’s 2.5 times the rate of death. 

What are the reasons for this?

Some of them are solvable. Much of the media has been focused on the high rate of deaths in nursing homes, since about a third of all U.S. deaths from Covid have been linked to them. But people living in residential homes and communities that serve disabled adults are far less protected. Caretakers and other providers who serve residential homes are not considered essential workers, so they haven’t been afforded the protection given to other front line health care workers such as masks and other PPE, not to mention overtime hours or hazard pay.

Other issues are more intractable: people with disabilities are more likely to have coexisting health conditions that make them more vulnerable to Covid-19. NPR also estimates that 13–20% of people with developmental disabilities live in group homes, compared to only 6% of people over 65.

Last month, a group of disability activists in Washington called People First held a meeting to address budget shortfalls and the need to work for reliable transportation and higher wages for state-funded caregivers. If you’d like to support their advocacy campaign, they’ve provided some useful tools here.

 

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