The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated its list of conditions that put people at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19. (Stock)
Nearly two years into the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognizes for the first time that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are at high risk for serious illness from COVID-19.
The agency quietly updated its list of medical conditions known to be associated with an increased risk of serious illness from the virus in mid-February.
“People with certain types of disabilities may be more likely to get very sick from COVID-19 due to underlying medical conditions, living in congregate settings, or systemic health and social inequalities. ”, read the latest guidelines.
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The list includes people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, birth defects, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, learning disabilities, spinal cord injury and “people with any type of disability that makes it more difficult to perform certain activities or interact. with the world around them, including people who need help with personal care or daily activities.
People whose conditions are on the CDC’s list are “more likely to get very sick with COVID-19,” according to the guidelines. It could mean being hospitalized, needing intensive care, needing a ventilator, or dying.
The CDC said people with such conditions should stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccines and use preventative measures like wearing masks and avoiding crowded spaces.
Before last month’s change, Down syndrome was the only disability mentioned, but there was a note suggesting people with other conditions could also be affected.
“People with disabilities are more likely than people without disabilities to have chronic health conditions, live in congregate settings, and face more barriers to health care,” the note says. “Studies have shown that some people with certain disabilities are more likely to get COVID-19 and have poorer outcomes.”
The CDC has made it clear that research around COVID-19 is constantly evolving, and the agency’s list of conditions associated with an increased risk of serious illness may continue to grow.
Research dating back to mid-2020 found that people with intellectual disabilities were at higher risk of COVID-19 than others.
Scott D. Landes, an associate professor of sociology at Syracuse University who has studied the experiences of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, said he was happy to see these conditions added to the CDC list, but wonders why it took so long.
“All the evidence I have seen to date, including our own work, in the United States and other countries points to an increased risk of COVID-19 infection, hospitalization and death. for this population,” Landes said. “While I imagine the CDC has a process it uses to determine when to add conditions to this list, I can’t help but wonder how things might have been different if these disabilities had been listed on the list of risk factors at an earlier date. ”
The updates to the CDC’s list come as the agency relaxes masking guidelines, a move that has disability advocates concerned.
According to new guidelines released last week, CDC officials use different measures to assess community risk of COVID-19. With the new criteria in place, only about 30% of Americans live in areas considered high risk where universal indoor masking is still recommended.
“This change to the masking guidelines specifically establishes a completely separate set of rules for people with disabilities, acknowledging that they are still at risk, but not asking the general public to continue to take protective measures to help reduce their risks,” said Peter. Berns, CEO of Arc. “As this abrupt policy change failing to accommodate the needs of people with disabilities begins to be implemented, we ask everyone to think of others in their neighborhood, in their community, at this time when they are wondering if they is necessary to put on a mask.”