Workers at adult and senior care facilities as well as in-home aides are now included in the California list of health workers who must have a current vaccine against the coronavirus.
All people who work with persons with disabilities, such as state employees, aides contracted through agencies and in-home support workers who do not live with the person they are helping, are now covered by the mandate for vaccines. This group must be fully immunized by November. 30.
Previous health orders covered only people working in licensed congregate settings like nursing homes, leaving out staff members who support 89% of people in California with developmental disabilities living with family, on their own or in group homes.
For months, people like Tim Jin, who depend on aides to perform everyday tasks, wondered: Was the person brushing my teeth immunized?
“My disability means that I can’t do things like cooking, eating or using the microwave by myself. Jin stated that Jin is totally dependent on others for assistance.
Jin has cerebral palsy and lacks the use of his arms or hands. His only method of communication is to use an electric wheelchair to type with his toes. He has six health aides who come into his home each day to assist him with intimate tasks such as eating and bathing.
” All staff that come to my house should be immunized. He said it was that easy. It’s a matter of life and death
Only health workers who have religious objections or are qualified medical professionals can be exempted by the vaccine requirement. They will be tested weekly for the virus that causes covid-19 and must wear high-grade masks when working.
But the order applied only to L.A. County, leaving out the 200,000 Californians with developmental disabilities living elsewhere, including Tim Jin, who lives in neighboring Orange County.
Advocates for people with disabilities hoped state health officials would use L.A. County as a model, but California’s Sept. 28 health order went further, mandating the vaccine for some in-home support service workers, as well as home health aides.
“These care settings are home to Californians with complex medical conditions, all of whom are at high risk of having severe but preventable outcomes, including hospitalization, severe illness and death,” said Dr. Tomas Aragon, California’s public health officer.
California has reported 19,830 confirmed covid outbreaks throughout the pandemic, and nearly 50% of those were reported in health care, congregate care and direct care settings, according to the California Department of Public Health. Of these outbreaks, the most (22%) have occurred in adult and senior care facilities and in-home direct care settings.
Studies show that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities often have underlying health conditions that make them more susceptible to covid.
“And when they do get diagnosed with covid-19, they are about two to three times more likely to die from the disease,” said Scott Landes, an associate professor of sociology at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.
Landes said cases seem to be dependent on two variables: preexisting conditions and the amount of in-person intimate care that the developmentally disabled person needs.
“This is just for covid.” he stated. “If you’ve got a caregiver that’s right up next to you, all day, it’s going to increase the chances that you could get the disease.”
This story is from a reporting partnership that includes Southern California Public Radio, NPR and KHN.
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