A “vulnerable team” wearing personal protective equipment prepares to lay a COVID-19 patient on their stomach in an intensive care unit at a Stamford, Connecticut hospital (John Moore / Getty Images / TNS).
People with developmental disabilities are more likely to die from COVID-19 compared to others. However, new research suggests that the risk is not evenly distributed among this population.
According to a study published this month in the Disability and Health Journal, the virus affects people with developmental disabilities differently, mainly depending on where they live.
The researchers analyzed data on COVID-19 outcomes for people who received developmental disability services in California between May and early October, and compared their experiences to those of the most populous state.
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Overall, people with developmental disabilities were 60% less likely to get the virus, but those who did were 2.8 times more likely to die. However, the study found that among the people in this population, the environment they lived in and the number of people they lived with appeared to be significant predictors of risk.
“For people with IDD living in their own or family homes, the case rate is lower than that of the state as a whole, and their death rate is only slightly higher than that of the state,” said Scott Landes, a associate professor of sociology at from Syracuse University, who led the study.
However, for those who live in group homes, institutions, and other meeting areas, the story is very different.
“For people with IDD living in a community, the extent to which the fall rate is higher depends on the number of people in the type of residence – institutions with more residents have higher fall rates – while the mortality rate is significant higher for those living in facilities that provide skilled care, which is likely indicative of a higher prevalence of pre-existing conditions, ”Landes said.
As more data becomes available, the researchers believe that additional analysis will be needed to see if these trends persist in controlling age and pre-existing conditions.
The study comes from advocates urging that given the higher death rates in this population, people with developmental disabilities should give priority to COVID-19 vaccines as they become available in the coming months.
A new report from the American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR), which represents disability service providers across the country, found that only 10 states specifically addressed people with developmental disabilities in their plans to introduce coronavirus vaccines.