As the coronavirus pandemic continues to surge across New York State, people with disabilities and chronic health conditions are being encouraged to keep themselves healthy and protected through preparation and by making use of available resources.
To date, there are nearly 60,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus—or COVID 19—in New York State, with more than 33,000 in New York City. There have been more than 1,200 deaths in the State. Last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order mandating that workers remain at home and only essential workers—including home care workers and personal aides who provide services for people with disabilities—report to work.
As measures such as social distancing continue to be enforced to prevent the spread of the virus, people with disabilities and chronic health conditions, including Independence Care System (ICS) members, should take steps to ensure for as much self-efficiency as possible during the pandemic.
Assistance and resources for people with disabilities
The New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM) has its Ready New York: My Emergency Plan workbook, designed to assist people with disabilities to create emergency plans. The workbook can also be used by caregivers.
OEM offers a variety of information and guidance on everything from communications strategies, how to receive updates, developing a support network, making copies of important health information, acquiring essential supplies and more.
For more information, visit OEM’s page.
Support services available during coronavirus pandemic
The Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD) has launched a brand new coronavirus page that provides information on a variety of resources, ranging from food and supply delivery services and meal pickup services to mental health, social security, Medicaid, transportation and employment resources.
For more information, visit MOPD’s page.
Guidance for wheelchair users interacting with home care workers
To prevent contracting the coronavirus, wheelchair users should wipe down their wheelchairs with Clorox wipes, or put bleach or rubbing alcohol on a rag or towel to wipe down chairs. It is recommended to wipe down chairs when one returns home, and overall, to stay home and reduce direct contact with people.
Peter Axelson, an engineer and long time wheelchair user, created guidance on keeping his chair clean during the pandemic, which can be found here.
Interacting with home care workers and having an emergency plan
People with disabilities that use personal care need to take precautions when your aide visits. While providing assistance, both the aide and person with a disability should refrain from face to face contact. Home health workers should maintain the recommended six feet social distance when not providing direct assistance, even in homes, at all times, and wash their hands immediately upon entering a home.
Workers helping with personal care should take universal precautions, including the use of gloves, masks and other personal protective equipment. Homemade masks are not recommended and may not protect against the spread of the virus. Surface areas, door knobs, medical equipment and other bacteria/viral-ridden areas should be cleaned thoroughly every day.
We know the COVID 19 virus is widespread in New York City and may eventually affect the personal care workforce. In the event a home health worker cannot visit, people with disabilities and chronic health conditions should have an emergency plan in place.
* Establish an alternative plan if your homecare worker gets sick and cannot work. You may need to rely on friends, family members or neighbors for assistance if your worker cannot come.
* Take precautions to keep your home free of the virus. Masks, gloves, and sanitizing cleaners help to protect both you and your worker.
*Contact your doctor for additional prescription medications or supplies or any necessities.
*If unable to pick up food, contact God’s Love We Deliver or Invisible Hands, organizations that can provide support services. For any housing-related issues, contact Services of New York Hotline, at 917.661.4500. ICS members can contact their care navigators for assistance.
*Get your information from reliable sources. Visit the New York State and Center for Disease Control and Prevention websites for updates.
People with disabilities and chronic conditions are advised to remain informed of the symptoms associated with the coronavirus, and take all necessary steps to remain healthy and protected. Symptoms are quite common and include:
- Shortness of breath
People who develop symptoms should seek immediate medical advice, especially if they have been in contact with a person known to have coronavirus. Call ahead before visiting a doctor or ER and tell them about symptoms.
Remain healthy during coronavirus outbreak
Here are some important guidelines:
- Stay home as much as possible.
- Do not gather in groups.
- Do not visit other people or have them visit you.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, going to the bathroom and before eating or preparing food.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Always cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue.
- Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces.
- Questions of concerns should be directed to the New York State Department of Health’s coronavirus hotline at 1-888-364-3065, or 311 for questions related to the virus.
City and State
Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities
Voice phone: 212.788.2830
Video phone: 646. 396. 5830
Use the feedback form
Mental Health Services
Text “Well” to 65173