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Disability Group Urges People to Stay Home for Holidays

Risky Thanksgiving behavior could lead to funerals by Christmas

Washington, D.C., Nov. 24 – As new COVID-19 cases are spiraling out of control across the United States, the disability advocacy nonprofit RespectAbility is urging people to stay home for the holiday season.

“The news of three potential COVID-19 vaccines with over 90% effectiveness is a great sign for 2021,” said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, President of RespectAbility. “However, COVID-19 cases are surging right now, and we need people to be cautious. Stay at home if at all possible, and if you do go out, wear a mask and practice social distancing. Risky behavior this Thanksgiving could lead to funerals by Christmas.”

An analysis of insurance claims data showed that people with intellectual disabilities and developmental disabilities are three times more likely to die if they have COVID-19. This threat is compounded by fears of medical rationing plans, which would prioritize people without disabilities for treatment.

“Millions of Americans – myself included – are at high risk under the medical rationing plans offered by certain states if we contract the virus,” said Matan Koch, who is a quadriplegic with asthma and the Director of RespectAbility’s California office. A graduate of Yale College and Harvard Law School, he nonetheless knows what it means to face discrimination everywhere, including in the healthcare system, because of preconceptions about disability and quality-of-life.

Back in March, at the beginning of the pandemic, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) took swift action to remind hospitals of their obligations to respect civil rights and prohibit discrimination even in this time of crisis. Similar leadership is needed once again as the pandemic continues to kill more Americans.

Caution is all the more important due to the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 is having on the Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities. Data shows that 19 percent of people who died from COVID-19 were Black or African American. The data also shows that nationwide, Black people are dying at two times the rate of white people.

In an interview with NPR, Samantha Artiga, director of the Disparities Policy Project at the Kaiser Family Foundation noted that “the findings very consistently show that people of color are really bearing the heaviest burden of COVID-19 at every stage, from risk of exposure, to access to testing, to severity of the illness and eventually death.” This creates even greater risk considering the intersectionality between the disability community and the BIPOC community.

“Our leaders at the federal, state and local level have a moral responsibility to take decisive action against discrimination, model public health best practices and encourage universal mask-wearing,” said RespectAbility’s Policy and Practices Director, Philip Kahn-Pauli. “If everyone wore a mask and limited social contact, we could save thousands of lives.” The best available statistical models show that increasing mask usage across the country could easily save up to 130,000 Americans from contracting COVID-19.

Meet the Author

Eric Ascher

Eric Ascher is the Communications Associate for RespectAbility. He is responsible for supporting RespectAbility’s Vice President, Communications in developing and implementing advocacy efforts and communications of various types. Ascher manages RespectAbility’s social media channels, website and emails; organizes and develops webinars; and supervises Communications Fellows.

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