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People with intellectual disabilities and autism who contract COVID-19 die at higher rates than the rest of the population, according to an analysis by NPR of numbers obtained from two states that collect data. They also contract the virus at a higher rate, according to research looking into group homes across the United States.
In Pennsylvania, numbers obtained by NPR show that people with intellectual disabilities and autism who test positive for COVID-19 die at a rate about twice as high as other Pennsylvania residents who contract the illness.
In New York, the state with the most deaths from COVID-19, people with developmental disabilities die at a rate 2.5 times the rate of others who contract the virus.
The numbers in Pennsylvania are compiled by the Office of Developmental Programs of the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services and count people who get state services while living in group homes, state institutions or in their own homes. As of June 2, there were 801 confirmed cases and 113 deaths among people with intellectual disabilities and autism. In New York, NPR calculated data obtained from the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities. Of people who get state services from that office, 2,289 have tested positive for COVID-19 and 368 have died.
The high rate of death “is disturbing, but it’s not surprising,” says Scott Landes, an associate professor of sociology at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.