People With Developmental Disabilities Face Higher Risk of COVID Death

To help the vulnerable community, a local social services organization will host a PPE drive-thru distribution in El Cajon on Feb. 21

NBC Universal, Inc.

One of the groups at the highest risk for COVID-19 death is San Diegans living with developmental disabilities. A recent study found that patients with a developmental disability are three times more likely to die than patients without the condition.

“In San Diego alone, there are 21,000 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” said Edward Hershey, Vice President of Operations at Home of Guiding Hands (HGH), which provides housing and programs for 4,000 San Diegans with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

“We used to have the largest transportation company in San Diego for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities, very similar to a school bus. That got halted on March 13, with the cancellation of a lot of day programs,” said Hershey.

One of the clients who is missing out is Sally Harris.

“We play games,” said Sally Harris

She used to also gather with friends for bowling and weekly dances. One of the most difficult aspects of pandemic is not having the interaction and routine she was used to.

“For people with developmental disabilities they really need that social interaction in order to thrive,” said Cyndi Harris, Sally Harris’ sister-in-law.

There are several factors that make the developmentally disabled more at risk to coronavirus. Some live in group settings or rely on caretakers. Others may have difficulties accessing information or communicating their symptoms.

Because of the high risk, advocates are pushing the state to prioritize the developmentally disabled for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Sally Harris lives in an apartment with roommates, but her family knows other people are not as well adjusted.

“We know that’s not the case for a large number of individuals with developmental disabilities and individuals with disabilities who are basically shut-ins right now,” said Cyndi Harris.

HGH has been forced to restrict its programs, but it is still trying to help the community. The organization will have a PPE drive-through distribution event on Feb. 21, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 1908 Friendship Dr. in El Cajon. Anyone who has a loved one within the special needs community can participate.

For more information on the PPE distribution, click here.

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