State Should Stop Social Distancing From The Developmentally Disabled

In recent weeks, the New York Post has reported on the unacceptable spike in COVID-19 infections and fatalities at many New York nursing homes, and on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s unwillingness to acknowledge the state’s role in the problem or fix it. Sadly, some group homes for the developmentally disabled have also become COVID-19 hotspots. Both The New York Times and WORLD have reported on the special challenges faced by group homes for the developmentally disabled during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those challenges include: COVID-19 infections and fatalities amongst residents and staff; lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff; widespread job losses for developmentally disabled persons;  difficulties in helping residents adjust to COVID-19-related changes to their lives and routines; and the impossibility of following social distancing rules in group home settings with residents that may lack the capacity to understand or follow those rules. According to WORLD, the COVID-19 mortality rate for the developmentally disabled in New York is equivalent to the mortality rate at “the worst-hit nursing homes in the state: 15 percent, as of April 26.”

Jason J. McGuire, Executive Director of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms (NYCF), made the following remarks: “On March 24, 2020, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, ‘“My mother is not expendable and your mother is not expendable and our brothers and sisters are not expendable…we’re not going to accept a premise that human life is disposable…”’ It is time for the Governor to live up to these words. No one—whether a developmentally disabled group home resident, a nursing home resident, or a hospital patient—should be subjected to unsafe living conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Similarly, no employee working in a high-risk job—whether in a hospital setting, a nursing home, or a group home for the developmentally disabled—should have to choose between staying home from work and working without personal protective equipment. Like New York’s heroic first responders and nursing home staff, staffers at homes for the developmentally disabled need help and support during this extraordinarily challenging season. Gov. Cuomo and legislative leaders need to stop socially distancing from the needs of the developmentally disabled. Now is the time to support New Yorkers with special needs and the staff who see to their care.”