Hundreds of people have died and thousands are sick from coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreaks in group homes for disabled adults.
What is the Problem?
Approximately 275,000 people in the U.S. live in group homes for disabled adults. These facilities care for disabled people with conditions like autism, Down syndrome, or cerebral palsy.
COVID-19 poses an especially big challenge for disabled people. Some disabled residents have severe underlying health problems that leave them highly vulnerable to life-threatening COVID-19 infections.
Furthermore, social distancing is often impossible in group homes. Disabled residents may need frequent hands-on care from staff. They may also have roommates and share communal living areas.
AP Investigation Finds 680 Deaths from COVID-19 In Disabled Group Homes
An investigation by the Associated Press found at least 5,800 residents in group homes have been infected with COVID-19, and more than 680 have died. The actual number of illnesses and deaths is certainly far higher, because many states — including California and Texas — did not report COVID-19 data for disabled group homes.
40% of Care Facilities Cited For Failing to Control Infections
The most well-known homes for the disabled are government-funded institutions called Intermediate Care Facilities. Unfortunately, about 40% of these facilities failed to meet safety standards for preventing and controlling infection outbreaks from 2013 through 2019, according to inspection reports obtained by the Associated Press.
Inspections found basic failures to prevent infections, such as:
- Employees not washing their hands while caring for multiple residents
- Staff re-using gloves, masks, and other protective gear
- Unsanitary conditions (dirty diapers and linens, insects, body fluids and feces on surfaces in common areas)
Shortages of Protective Equipment
Group homes may not be prepared with protective equipment for staff and residents. In past pandemics, disabled people have been less likely to get access to critical medical supplies. This discrimination can become even more challenging as medical resources become scarce.
COVID-19 and People With Disabilities
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that spreads from person to person. Some people with disabilities may have a higher risk of infection or severe illness due to underlying health problems like lung disease, heart problems, or a weak immune system, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Symptoms of COVID-19
The symptoms of a COVID-19 infection may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting