Inclusion. The blog for the Center for Disability Studies.

COVID-19 and the disability community

By Brittany Powers

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Computer illustration of coronavirus

In today’s world of fast-paced information sharing, it can be difficult to sort out which information is based on opinion, politics, science or data. Adding a global pandemic to the mix has made this increasingly difficult for our Delaware community members and individuals throughout the world. At this point, it is important to acknowledge that this novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, is not something to take lightly. And, for certain groups, it may have more of an impact on daily life than others.

A few quick facts about COVID-19:

  • It is an infectious disease that originated in Wuhan, China in December 2019.
  • Common symptoms are flu-like, including fever, fatigue and a dry cough.
  • More than 160 countries and territories have confirmed cases, with more than 200,000 cases worldwide.
  • Current reported global death rate is approximately four percent.
  • Individuals over the age of 60 and individuals of any age with pre-existing health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease, are considered at high risk.

COVID-19 has led to interruptions to everyone’s usual way of life. Community centers and gyms are closing. Public schools are on unexpected breaks. Higher education settings are shifting toward online learning. Typical grocery items are not stocked. People are working from home. Or, they may not be working at all. And what about the added consequences for individuals with disabilities?

For individuals who need in-home support, their caregivers may be ill and required to stay home. Who is helping those individuals with their activities of daily living, like dressing and food preparation? For students receiving special education, their schools may be closed. How are those children receiving related services such as physical, speech and occupational therapies? For individuals relying on public transportation, their normal transit schedules may be affected. How are these individuals getting groceries, household supplies and necessary medications?

While we may not have all the answers just yet, we can educate one another with facts, share reliable resources and support others in our community. It is also critical to be prepared and, where appropriate, act. Here are a few tips to get started:

Identify a back-up caregiver. Know who can help if your primary support person falls ill or needs to stay home. Plan ahead with a list of names and phone numbers so you are not left alone unexpectedly.

Develop a routine. Routine is beneficial for mental health and maintaining a sense of normalcy during stressful times. Set a regular routine that may include new activities in the absence of usual ones.

Maintain three healthy habits. Three crucial elements of maintaining a healthy lifestyle are diet, exercise and sleep. It is important during this time to continue each day to follow a balanced diet, incorporate physical activity to your ability and get a full night’s sleep.

Explore options for tele-connections. Many healthcare providers are offering options to connect online. In Delaware, telehealth services are largely covered, which allows you to remain in the safety of your home as you seek out and receive services.

Utilize home delivery. Some food delivery companies, such as UberEats, grocery stores and local restaurants are offering free delivery services during this time. Certain pharmacies are also offering medication delivery and major insurance companies have waived 30-day refill limits. Also, don’t be afraid to ask a family member or friend for help if you are running low on something at home.

Follow directions from the CDC and WHO. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have wonderful resources available outlining simple steps to take to reduce your risk of getting or spreading COVID-19. Key recommendations include regular hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, avoiding touching your face, avoiding groups of 10 people or more, keeping a distance of at least six feet from others, disinfecting commonly used surfaces and staying home if you feel sick.

If you feel sick, act quickly. If you find yourself with symptoms of COVID-19, or if you have come into contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, it is important to reach out to a healthcare professional immediately. You should first call your primary medical doctor. If you have additional questions, you may call the Delaware Division of Public Health Call Center at 1-866-408-1899.

Above all else, remember to take care of yourself. Prepare well. Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Seek out valid sources of information. Check in on loved ones. And remain calm. We are all in this together.

For more information and regular updates about the status of COVID-19, visit the following page links:

World Health Organization

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

DE Division of Public Health

University of Delaware

UD Center for Disabilities Studies

About the Author

Brittany Powers is the Interim Director of Health & Wellness at the University of Delaware Center for Disabilities Studies. She oversees multiple projects aimed at supporting the systems that serve children and youth with special healthcare needs, as well as families of individuals with developmental disabilities and autism. Brittany serves as the CDC Act Early Ambassador to Delaware and is a current doctoral student in the Health Behavior Science and Promotion program at UD. She received her Master’s in Public Health and Certificate in Health Education from New York Medical College.

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