In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the day-to-day challenges facing autistic people and their families. Those challenges get far more intense during disasters. And coronavirus is proving to be the biggest disaster of all.
Group homes in [Massachusetts] were locked down for close to three months and families were only allowed to video chat with their adult children in order to try to keep the novel coronavirus out of these “congregate living” facilities where individuals are living together in close quarters and sickness can spread more quickly.The story focuses on an autistic man named Ned Hubbard, who has two housemates who got COVID.
Individuals with autism and other disabilities may be part of the population who gets sicker from the novel coronavirus than the general population. They often have what’s known as “co-morbid” medical conditions that can make them more susceptible to illness, including COVID-19. Ned gets seizures, and his parents say he doesn’t register a fever so temperature checks may not be a reliable way to screen him for COVID-19.
Amego, the facility which operates Ned's home, also operates dozens of other residential facilities in Massachusetts.
Amego’s President and CEO, John Randall, says despite equipping staff with PPE and taking numerous precautions to date 46 Amego residents and 71 staff have tested positive for the virus.
Statewide, the Department of Developmental Services tells Boston 25 that 1,575 adult residents have tested positive as of early June and 98 adults have died.
It’s not just adults.
Although the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) could not tell us how many children in the state’s group homes contracted the novel coronavirus, Boston 25 News has learned one facility, the New England Center for Children in Southborough, had 15 of their students and 19 of their staff tested positive.
To date, more than 1,800 staff members at group homes in the state have tested positive for COVID-19 and three staff members have died.