Covid-19 Disability Action Alert and Pandemic News Updates


December 15, 2020 | by Amber Smock

Covid-19 Disability Action Alert and Pandemic News Updates

Access Living friends and allies:

As the first vaccines roll out across the country, Congress remains stalled on Covid-19 relief, crisis standards of care need updating, vaccine protocols need to be disability inclusive, and researchers are finding that Covid-19 infections/deaths have a link to the lifting of eviction moratoria. As always, you can check out Access Living’s Covid-19 resource list here. Read on for more.

Action Alert on Disability and Covid-19 Relief:

Congress remains stalled on passing a relief package to support communities affected by Covid-19. Unfortunately, the main package under discussion continues to exclude disability-specific relief recommended by disability advocates per this link. In particular, we really need dedicated funding for relief for a wide range of home and community based services supporting people with disabilities. You can help by using this action link to send a message to your members of Congress to let them know that Covid-19 relief for people with disabilities and disability programs is critical.

City of Chicago Vaccine Virtual Town Hall:

The City of Chicago will hold a Virtual Town Hall on Thursday, December 17th at 6 pm Central Time. Representatives from the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) will be on hand to provide the latest information and to answer questions. The Town Hall will be live streamed on Mayor Lightfoot’s Facebook account: Registration is not required to attend, nor do you need a Facebook account.

While you will be able to post questions via the chat during the meeting, you can also send your questions in advance via email to The event will have closed captioning and ASL interpreters. Persons with disabilities who require other accommodations, please email or call (312) 720-5523. Simultaneous translation into Spanish and several other languages will also be available.

Medical Rationing Behind Closed Doors:

Since the beginning of the pandemic, disability advocates have raised the alarm that medical professionals could lean on Covid-infected individuals with disabilities to terminate their lives against their will. As NPR’s Joe Shapiro shared this week, this did in fact happen to a white woman with cerebral palsy in Oregon named Sarah McSweeney. Read the story here. The story recalls the tragic death of Michael Hickson in Texas, a Black man in Houston who had a brain injury, was quadriplegic and died on July 31. NPR also covered his story here. As in Sarah McSweeney’s case, Michael Hickson’s doctors felt that because he was disabled, he had a low quality of life and therefore lifesaving treatment would be wasted on him. Both McSweeney and Hickson also had difficulty with verbal communication, and relied to different degrees on nonverbal communication. Medical rationing is one of the worst fears of disabled people, driving a national push by disability advocates to hold states and the federal government accountable for meaningful non-discrimination enforcement of crisis of care standards. Read more about this issue at this link and urge your Governor to ensure that discrimination in crisis care will not be tolerated.

Evictions Connected to Covid-19:

Also from NPR this week, a researcher has noted that there appears to be a tie between increased Covid-19 infections/deaths and the lifting of eviction moratoriums in different states. States that lifted a moratorium on evictions saw more people infected with Covid-19, likely because those evicted had to bundle in with another household. See the story at this link. Fortunately, in Illinois, Governor Pritzker continues to extend the statewide moratorium on evictions, which is likely saving lives-the current extension remains in place through January 9, 2021. You can learn about your state’s status on evictions at this link.

Vaccine Protocols and Disability:

Right now, every state is working on their own protocol (or process) to distribute the Covid-19 vaccines when they become available. While the federal government has an important say on how vaccines get distributed, states have their own plans and some cities will have their own plans as well. You may have seen on the news that there is an emphasis on frontline healthcare personnel receiving vaccines immediately, along with residents and staff of nursing facilities being next in line. But in at least one state, people with intellectual/developmental disabilities are also being prioritized for vaccination: Oregon. This is important news for advocates focusing on issues facing people with disabilities who cannot wear masks and cannot socially distance without support. Check out this link for the Oregon protocol.

Please share this email with those interested in Covid-19 disability advocacy. Thank you!