Firstly, here is the report from the Imperial College London with projections of trendlines for different approaches to address the outbreak. This is what we are looking at until either they get better at treating it, or they develop a vaccine. Some are estimating that it may take up to a year to develop a vaccine:
Secondly, there has been a lot of discussion on social media that borders on eugenics when it comes to the potential impact of this virus and vulnerable populations, including those with disabilities and the elderly. The biggest concern is that since it has been determined the virus will reach pandemic proportions, it will overwhelm our hospital systems and that choices will need to be made between who gets to live and who must die. In fact, Italy is facing this decision right now. Often, because of how quality of life is determined people with disabilities leads to a devaluation of Quality-Adjusted Life Years (QALY) for people with disabilities that has a far reaching impact. Further, these individuals thereby have poorer access to health care in times of crisis, organ transplants, and (as in this case) life saving equipment. We are facing a ventilator shortage; raising the questions of not only who will get the ventilators, but also whether medical professionals (aware of their ableism or not) will give them to those they believe have the best chance of survival. Further, right now there is outcry from the disability community where people receiving Long Term Services and Supports (LTSS) in the community are at risk of losing their ventilators should they become hospitalized. All of this has prompted the National Council on Disability (NCD) to issue to following letter to the Office of Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services:
- NCD COVID-19 letter to HHS OCR: "On behalf of the National Council on Disability (NCD), I write on a matter of urgency regarding non-discriminatory access to life-saving medical care for people with disabilities who contract COVID-19..."
- Respirators, rationing and the disabled: Coronavirus reminds us why everyone deserves health care
- More Info on QUALY Here: What is a QUALY?
- Spain has implemented nationalized health care to deal with this crisis
- Canals in Venice that have been infamous for their pollution due to high traffic, have for the first time in decades become clear, you can see the fish, and swans have returned.
A crisis will always expose the greatest vulnerabilities in our social systems and infrastructure. Historically, this has led to policy advancements to ensure greater protections for our citizens.
DOMESTIC DISABILITY POLICY:
In the U.S. there is currently a bill called the "Families First Coronavirus Response Act." Originally this Bill included protections for people with disabilities and their families. However, compromises led to much being dropped including:
- "The original House bill allowed paid sick days to be utilized to care for loved ones who are “otherwise in need of care.” This would have covered situations where people with disabilities lose their paid caregivers due to the pandemic and need a loved one to provide the necessary care. Unfortunately for individuals with disabilities, the compromise bill does not cover a family member who takes off from work and steps-in as a caregiver in this situation." [Read more]
We have heard proposals so suspend rent and utilities payments, as well as student/medical debt payments/collections, during this time in order to try and stave of an economic depression. One particularly relevant proposal for disability policy comes from Senators Sherrod Brown and Bob Casey to suspend Continuing Disability Reviews for Social security during this time so that those resources can be better allocated, but also so that people with disabilities don't lose their current benefits during this crisis.
Senator Mitt Romney proposed that the federal government give all Americans $1,000 a month. This sounds great, but would force people with disabilities over their asset limits for social security and put them at risk of losing their benefits.
Senator Chuck Schumer has proposed a Coronavirus Relief Bill. This has come under fire from the disability community, however, as it only focuses on the elderly and excludes people with disabilities. You can follow this conversation on Twitter at #SeeUsSchumer.
Access Living has issued an Action Alert! to urge the Senate to include disability concerns in their COVID-19 Stimulus package. Click here for more info.
AUCD's Disabilty Poicy News is a wonderful resource to follow! You can sign up for their newsletter here.
They have put together an Action Alert! that addresses several of the policy issues in front of us right now. Click here for more info.
In solidarity and social distance,