A Crisis Decades in the Making: Disability Housing Policy and COVID-19

by Katelyn Li: For Entire Post, Go Here…

For the roughly 681,000 Americans with intellectual and developmental disabilities who reside in congregate care settings such as group homes and state institutions, the coronavirus pandemic has wrought a tragic, and largely invisible, crisis.

An estimated 13% of adults with IDD rely on these congregate settings for full-time support, with aid ranging from medical services to personal care. Yet close quarters, shared use of essential living spaces, and frequent shift changes of part-time staff have turned these facilities into ideal breeding grounds for the virus. 

A recent study led by Scott Landes, an associate professor of sociology at Syracuse University, found that the case rate for people living in New York’s residential group homes was disproportionately high. In those homes, there were 7,841 cases per 100,000 people, compared to 1,910 per 100,000 for the general New York population. And these high levels of infection are further compounded by the fact that people with IDD face high prevalence of co-occurring conditions – including hypertension, heart disease, respiratory disease, and diabetes – which put them at elevated risk of poor outcomes from COVID-19. Indeed, Landes’ study showed that case-fatality was 15% among people with IDD, compared to 7.9% among the state’s general population.

The fatality statistics reported for people with IDD in congregate settings are even higher than those reported for Black Americans, Landes explained, which are already exposing some of the nation’s worst inequities. “If you look at those mortality rates that we report, those are worse than any that I’ve seen from any minority in this country,” Landes told the HPR. “That just makes the point.”

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