The most recent mayor’s order pertaining to the covid-19 crisis, https://dds.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/dds/release_content/attachments/MayorsOrder2020.063.pdf, extended the public health emergency through May 15 and provided specific guidance with respect to vulnerable populations, some of which applies to people supported by the Department on Disability Services under the IDD waiver. This page on the DDS website collects pertinent government information in one location: https://dds.dc.gov/publication/dds-operating-status-during-covid-19-emergency. The DC government is now giving greater attention to how the coronavirus crisis is affecting residents with disabilities, but serious concerns remain.
First, as of two days ago, 135 people out of the 2396 people served under the DDS waiver have tested positive for covid-19 – up from 86 people just a week before, and 8 times the rate of the D.C. population as a whole. Of those 135 testing positive, 17 people, or 12.6%, had died – 9 of these in intermediate care facilities (nursing home-type settings), 4 in supported living, and the other 4 in a mixture of other settings. A worrisome aspect of this situation is that these cases are not due to people’s leaving their homes, but rather to the virus being brought to them in their homes by the same DSPs and other direct caregivers who provide the services they need. Until the last couple of weeks, little was being done to track these sorts of transmissions. As of May 1 though, we know that 109 provider staff have tested positive, with 4 deaths. Although there are regular temperature checks and self-reporting of any virus symptoms, there does not seem to be any plan for testing of staff or other emergency measures to bring down these frightening numbers.
Second, the mayor has launched a task force to plan for a gradual reopening of the city (https://coronavirus.dc.gov/reopendc), but people with disabilities are not well represented on its twelve subcommittees. A coalition of advocacy groups is writing to the mayor to convince her to remedy this situation by adding persons with disabilities to some of the subcommittees. Hopefully this will bear fruit. In addition, all of us need to take advantage of these opportunities for input:
- Specific feedback on the ReOpenDC initiative: https://dcgov.seamlessdocs.com/f/ReOpenCommittees, and
- A longer survey about how the city should go about reopening: https://dcgov.seamlessdocs.com/f/ReOpenDC
I encourage you to answer both of these, today, in order to ensure the voices of people with disabilities and their supporters are clearly a part of the mayor’s forward planning.