As always, please refer to my page over to the right, “D.C. Disability-related Organizations and Terminology” if you’re confused about any of the terms I use in this blog post.
First, the good news: The staff working for agencies that provide supports under the DC IDD waiver are now eligible to get the covid vaccine. However, if any of you have been on the community calls that DDS director Andy Reese hosts on Fridays (contact Charlisa Payne at Charlisa.Payne2@dc.gov to sign up for notifications), then you know I have not been happy about the DC Health decision to make covid vaccines available to all DC residents 65 and older before most people below 65 who get support under the IDD waiver become eligible. In DC, only waiver recipients in intermediate care facilities (ICFs) or residential habilitation (group homes, also known as community residence facilities, or CRFs) are currently eligible for the vaccine in DC. I do know that people over 65 (a category I belong to) tend, as a broad group, to experience more serious symptoms than younger people – but many jurisdictions, including Maryland, are focusing on 75+ initially, in recognition that there are a great many healthy people in the 65-74 age group who are also able to shelter safely from the virus.
So people 64 or under who are getting support under the IDD waiver are still waiting to be considered for the vaccine and will have to demonstrate they have underlying health conditions making them “high risk” (with no decision having been made yet about what documentation will be needed to show this is the case). On January 8, Andy Reese reported a “huge” increase (32) in December of covid cases among those in “supported living” residential settings, and on January 15 he announced another 9 cases in supported living so far in January. As a point of comparison, so far during the pandemic, as of January 15, 111 people, or 37%, of DC residents in ICFs had tested positive, and 166 people, or 17.8%, had tested positive in supported living – but supported living is the fastest-growing group, while cases in the ICF group are slowing down and those people are already vaccine-eligible.
DDS reported on January 15 that among people getting IDD supports, just under 400 people in ICFs or group homes are now eligible for the vaccine, along with another 200 people 65 or over. Doing basic math, this suggests that about 600 people, out of a total of 2400 people getting waiver supports, already have access to the vaccine. That leaves 1800 or so under the waiver, about half of whom are in supported living and others in their own, so-called “natural home” (a term I dislike) or a handful of other residential settings.
Rather than requiring laborious documentation to prove underlying health conditions, these remaining people under the IDD waiver need to be moved up in the queue, immediately. Given their living situations and what the numbers now show (a full 15% of people under the IDD waiver have tested positive), they are already “high-risk” and need to be considered that way. I have reached out to DC Health (in my role as chair of the DC DD council – see https://ddc.dc.gov/page/about-ddc), and so far I have not gotten a satisfying response. We need to keep the pressure on until it happens - for the time being, let Andy Reese know how you feel - firstname.lastname@example.org, today.