We are sharing this lengthy analysis published in Foreign Affairs, laying out a roadmap for combating COVID-19, because it contains recommendations and examples that could inform our members’ advocacy with state and federal officials. It provides useful policy suggestions for ensuring the needs for people with disabilities are met during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in future health emergencies. We share key highlights below:
- The article underscores the importance of continued speedy and widespread COVID-19 testing. The national focus has shifted to deploying COVID-19 vaccines, but testing remains critical due to large pockets of the country being vaccine-hesitant even as COVID-19 variants become more contagious.
- ANCOR’s key takeaway: Ensuring that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and the direct support professionals who support them are prioritized for speedy testing should be a national priority at the onset of any health crisis.
- Investing in contact tracing infrastructure is essential. The article gives the example of Vietnam keeping contagion down and having no deaths caused by COVID-19 in 2020 because the country invested in contact tracing, maintained through a shared national health surveillance database. This allowed officials to create a phone app that rapidly notified people when they were exposed to someone with COVID-19, ensuring prompt testing.
- ANCOR’s key takeaways: While Vietnam is now in crisis because it does not have access to COVID-19 vaccines amid the rise of new variants, the example shows how the disability community need to be involved right out the gate in contact tracing during pandemics to limit devastation. Furthermore, this underscores the importance of access to electronic health records in Medicaid disability supports, a point ANCOR explores in our COVID-19 data collection recommendations.
- There is continued need for “government support for isolation.” The United Kingdom is testing a program that uses contact tracing as an opportunity to educate people on social and financial resources that can help them sustain physical distancing. While still in the early phases, the practice is showing some promising results.
- ANCOR’s key takeaway: Advocating for state and federal officials to engage in similar levels of planning, granting of resources, and education efforts could help alleviate workforce turnover issues because it would help frontline staff better plan how to juggle their personal and professional responsibilities.