COVID-19 numbers plummet among disabled with vaccine rollout

    (Art: Getty Images)
    (Art: Getty Images)

    The numbers of new COVID infections among people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and staff who care for them, decreased by more than 80 percent from December 2020 to February 2021, according to newly released data from the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

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

    Tennessee was the first state in the nation to prioritize people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in its initial vaccine distribution phase.

    The fatality rate among people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Tennessee was three-and-a-half times as high as other Tennesseans — a rate comparable only to nursing homes. DIDD programs serve a total of about 12,500 people with disabilities. At least 57 have died and 1,503 tested positive for the virus. 

    “People with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Tennessee have a higher chance of dying from COVID, and it was important to Gov. Lee and this state to ensure they were prioritized for vaccination as soon as possible,” said Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD) Commissioner Brad Turner.  “It’s clear that this decision saved lives.”

    The data reflects the number of positive cases among people receiving services through the state’s three Medicaid-funded programs for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities and staff working for contracted community-based providers.  Positive cases among persons supported in the programs dropped more than 84 percent from a high of 349 in December 2020 to 54 in February 2021.  Staff cases dropped almost 83 percent.

    Covid infection rates among individuals with developmental or intellectual disabilities. Source: Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

     

     

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    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. She is a graduate of Columbia University in New York and the University of California at Berkeley School of Journalism. Wadhwani lives in Nashville with her partner and two children. Reach Anita at [email protected] Twitter: @anitawadhwani