Disabled individuals in state care die of COVID

By: - July 1, 2020 6:00 am
From the Tennessee Department of Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities' Facebook page.

From the Tennessee Department of Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities’ Facebook page.

Five adults living in facilities that are under the oversight of the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities have died from COVID-19. 

Two of the individuals lived in the same home, where a total of four persons who lived there and five staff tested positive for the virus.

Tennessee Department of Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities
Tennessee Department of Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities

Two others lived in facilities that also had more than one positive case. 

All five people — three women and two men ranging in age from 59 to 73 — had been transferred to hospitals at the time of their deaths.

“We know that people with disabilities are at a higher risk of experiencing complications up to death because of COVID-19 than the general population, which is why DIDD has taken steps to limit exposure of persons supported,” said Cara Kumari, an agency spokeswoman.

70 individuals in state care have tested positive for COVID-19; five have died.

In mid-May Gov. Bill Lee announced plans to provide testing to all 12,000 individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities served by state programs designed to help adults live as independently as possible. While some individuals remain at home with parents or others as caregivers, others live in group homes with assistance. The most medically fragile individuals live in nursing homes with round-the-clock care.

As of Tuesday, a total of 70 people have tested positive for the virus after 3,486 reported test results.

The testing has revealed multiple asymptomatic cases, Kumari said. Test results, she said, “allowed providers to take the necessary steps to quarantine them and minimize the spread to other people supported and staff. 

“We continue to work on a long-term testing strategy for persons supported and continue to encourage people with disabilities to get tested, even if they experience no symptoms.”

The individuals who died lived in facilities in Hamblen, Shelby and Davidson County. Kumari said federal privacy rules prevent the state from releasing the names of the facilities. 

The state typically contracts with private agencies to provide residential and other services to people in its programs, although it directly operates several long term care facilities. The state requires private agencies to report all positive tests for staff and individuals served in no more than four hours after receiving results. The department tracks contacts with housemates and staff who have worked inside the home. Private agencies who care for individuals are expected to follow quarantine protocols. 


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Anita Wadhwani
Anita Wadhwani

Anita Wadhwani is a senior reporter for the Tennessee Lookout. The Tennessee AP Broadcasters and Media (TAPME) named her Journalist of the Year in 2019 as well as giving her the Malcolm Law Award for Investigative Journalism. Wadhwani is formerly an investigative reporter with The Tennessean who focused on the impact of public policies on the people and places across Tennessee.