DC’s developmentally disabled community especially hard-hit by COVID-19

Members of D.C.’s developmentally disabled community are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19, with lower vaccination numbers and higher rates of death in the population.

Testifying in front of the D.C. Council Committee on Health, Robin Shaffert, with Georgetown University’s Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, said there’s a need for the city to reach out to disabled residents who have a lower vaccination rate than the 18-and-over citywide average.

“The numbers are very high and they’re very disturbing,” Shaffert said.

The numbers are published weekly by the Department of Disability Services and broken down by patient setting.

“As of Oct. 29, 446 people supported by the Developmental Disability Administration of the District’s Department on Disability Services have tested positive for COVID-19, and 65 of those people have died,” Shaffert said.

Data show 37 of those were COVID-related, but the cause of death for all 65 have not been determined yet, she said.

“There’s a continuing number of people who are dying, and so DDS plans an effort to take a look at what the high number of deaths were, that the cause of death isn’t COVID, are about,” Shaffert said. “We don’t have those results yet.”

While 95% of health care workers in the field are vaccinated, there is concern about what effect the pandemic’s isolation has had on the mental health of community members. Shaffert said addressing that impact must be a priority.

The department is working to create and disseminate informational videos to those in the disabled community who are vaccine-hesitant, or perhaps unaware they are eligible to get a booster shot.

“There’s no concentrated effort to get them booster shots the way there was for the original vaccine,” she testified.

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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