People With Intellectual Disabilities Are Often Overlooked In Pandemic Response
Early studies have shown that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have a higher likelihood of dying from the virus than those without disabilities, likely because of a higher prevalence of preexisting conditions. While some high-profile outbreaks made the news, a lack of federal tracking means the population remains largely overlooked amid the pandemic.
No one knows how many of the estimated 300,000 people who live in such facilities nationwide have caught COVID-19 or died as a result. That creates a blind spot in understanding the impact of the virus. And because data drives access to scarce COVID-19 vaccines, those with disabilities could be at a disadvantage for getting prioritized for the shots to keep them safe.
While facilities ranging from state institutions that serve hundreds to small group homes with a few people have been locked down throughout the pandemic, workers still rotate through every day. Residents live in close quarters. Some don't understand the dangers of the virus. Those who need help eating or changing can't keep their distance from others. Many facilities also have struggled to keep enough masks and staffers on hand.
The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities has repeatedly asked federal agencies to hold facilities where people with disabilities live to the same pandemic rules as nursing homes, which must report COVID-19 cases directly to national agencies.
Houghton, Katheryn. “People With Intellectual Disabilities Are Often Overlooked In Pandemic Response.” NPR, NPR, 12 Feb. 2021, www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2021/02/12/967190126/people-with-intellectual-disabilities-are-often-overlooked-in-pandemic-response.