‘This Is Really Life or Death.’ For People With Disabilities, Coronavirus Is Making It Harder Than Ever to Receive Care
Jeiri Flores is normally a busy, upbeat 29-year-old. But amid the COVID-19 pandemic, her go-to thought has been dark. “If I get this,” she thinks, “I’m gonna die.” This is not an unfounded fear. Flores has cerebral palsy, uses a wheelchair and needs assistance with everyday tasks, including making food and getting dressed. Her disability means it’s tougher for her immune system to kick illnesses; she’s still recovering from a bout of pneumonia she had in January. So beating COVID-19 could easily mean a protracted battle and months in a hospital—a prospect that comes with a cascading series of challenges unique to people with disabilities. At a time when all Americans are facing unforeseen obstacles and concerned about their futures, Flores and more than 60 million Americans with disabilities like her are facing perhaps the toughest road of all. With hospitals restricting visitors amid the pandemic, Flores and others who rely on family and aides for assistance and advocacy would no longer be guaranteed that resource. If access to life-saving care became limited, Flores would be up against potentially discriminatory state health plans to ration care. And if she made it out of the hospital, Flores’s fight would rage on: she’d need to ensure she could continue getting support in her home without exposing the health aides she needs to the virus. All of this is why Flores’ top goal right now is to avoid getting COV...
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