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The Coronavirus & People with Disabilities

A Statement From the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition

CCDC members have asked to hear from us about COVID 19 or the Coronavirus, and what it means for people with disabilities in Colorado. This memo will attempt to explain what we know to date. Please be assured that CCDC staff continue working (some from home and all of us safely), advocating, and ensuring the response efforts do not forget people with disabilities. We will also demand effective and accessible communication from all levels of government. If you encounter inaccessible documents, videos without captions, no ASL interpreters, or any other form of disability discrimination, please let us know immediately.  We created an email address for this purpose covid@ccdconline.org.

First and foremost, CCDC wants to state, “We are facing two different viruses. In addition to the Coronavirus, we also face an epidemic of anti-Asian sentiment.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention addresses this in its tip sheet: “People of Asian descent, including Chinese Americans, are not more likely to get COVID-19 than any other American. Help stop fear by letting people know that being of Asian descent does not increase the chance of getting or spreading COVID-19.” 

NOTE: This virus does not discriminate; however, people over 70 and people with chronic health conditions are more likely to require hospitalization and intense treatment. 

This memo will cover the following:


What is CCDC doing?

  • For any COVID-19 related concerns, questions, and reports of discrimination, please send an email to COVID@ccdconline.org.
  • CCDC is working with the Polis/Primavera administration to improve communication with our community to ensure the response efforts do not forget people with disabilities or overlook us during this time of crisis. Our efforts include assuring the availability of accessible documents, partnering with Medicaid, Public Health, Homeland Security, and other agencies to apprise them of concerns and policy needs specific to our community. Disaster response must be inclusive, not just for us but with us.
  • Continuing to do our work – filing Medicaid appeals, addressing other forms of discrimination, urging people with disabilities to register to vote and fill out their census forms, etc.
  • Working with allies who serve other at-risk communities such as Denver Homeless Out Loud to guarantee NO ONE is forgotten or targeted.
  • The General Assembly officially suspended its work for at least two weeks. During this time, we continue to lobby for our bills. We are paying close attention to the Joint Budget Committee, who continue to meet during the break. We expect substantial reductions in revenue forecasts, which will result in less money available for allocation by the legislature.
  • In times of crisis, it is critical for people with pre-existing anxiety, those who have difficulty processing information, and individuals in unsafe or unhealthy living situations, to stay involved and informed. Therefore, we are working to keep advocates and members alike, connected, and engaged through important advocacy work while they remain at home.
  • Regarding national issues related to disability, we are monitoring federal responses, signing onto letters, and weighing in on policy suggestions. A large COVID-19 bill is quickly making its way through Congress; it does a lot for people with disabilities, but it must go further. 


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What resources and information should you trust for advice on the virus?

NOTE: If you receive concerning information about or around the virus and do not know who to trust with it, please, send us an email at COVID@ccdconline.org. We will track it down and take action if necessary.

Recommending official sites for information does not mean we endorse or approve of the government’s response or think it is adequate for our community. We simply believe the best and most accurate information comes from the above-listed government sources.  


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As a person with a disability, what is your risk factor, and what steps should you take to stay safe?

  • Risk factors vary for people with disabilities and increases with age and specific issues.
    • Those who are medically compromised are at high risk, mainly if you are over 40.
    • Those who are medically compromised and over 60 are in a more significant risk category.
    • The most considerable risk of infection resulting in extreme cases of the virus are people with weakened respiratory or immune systems – regardless of age. We recommend these individuals stay at home in self-quarantine as best they can.
  • All others with disabilities or without should be safe and smart. Avoid crowds, don’t shake hands or hug, wash your hands regularly and thoroughly. Do not let anyone into your home who is ill. And finally, wash your hands every time you go into a building, after touching doors, elevator buttons, accessing public spaces, etc.
  • If you are in contact with someone who has the virus, please follow quarantine guidelines.
  • If you need attendant care, both you and your caregiver need to wear personal protective equipment. If you contact your durable medical equipment supplier, Medicaid should pay for your supplies. Your local emergency management center should be able to supply you as well. Be aware they will need an explanation of why you need them, and someone will have to pick them up.
  • If you think you have the virus, unless you have no alternative, avoid hospitals. If you require transportation to a hospital, let EMS know you might have the virus (fever, cough, shortness of breath). Notification allows medics and other persons to take all needed precautions.   

NOTE: Be aware that when hospital beds are in short supply, people with disabilities are at higher risk of being transported to nursing facilities. Once in a facility, visitors are limited or banned during this pandemic. Unless you are at risk of dying, please avoid hospitals.

  • Use alternatives to clinics and doctor offices. Depending on what is available in your location, call your doctor, access care via a chat line, or use mobile services like Dispatch Health.
  • Do your best not to panic. The goal underlying these strong precautions is to slow the spread of the virus and avoid overwhelming the health care system. Our inconveniences may last longer, but there will be a more significant outcome for people. Our healthcare system cannot handle millions of sick people at once.
  • Remember that not everyone gets this disease: 80% of cases are mild, 15% require hospitalization, and 5% or less are severe


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What is our state government doing?

  • The Colorado General Assembly is in recess for at least two weeks, to slow the spread by limiting contact in a closed area. They will assess extending the break at the end of March. Our constitution defines the session to 120 days, but we are not sure if the legislature can make the days non-consecutive in an emergency. We are waiting for guidance to see if they can go past May 7th. Two of our three bills are connected with the budget and are waiting for an introduction. One was introduced to the Senate and passed, now just waiting for an introduction to the house. Many other bills we care about are in the process as well.
  • Our state Medicaid agency is working with us and has asked the federal government for permission to make some changes to waivers, for example, allowing CDASS clients to pay our workers when they are out sick.
    • They have already communicated to case management agencies and will send out a letter Sunday night or Monday to all CDASS clients.
    • They are also working out how to approve remote medical care and exemptions for doctor visits for issues like getting clinic notes for new wheelchairs or signing a professional medical information page.
    • They also have already authorized:
      • Case management visits will be done remotely.
      • HCPF is asking the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) if family members can work for more than 40 hours if other attendants are unavailable. (We will update this when there is more information.)
      • CDASS clients can get new attendants enrolled in 24 hours.
      • Prescriptions can be refilled early. (We are not sure if this is any or only maintenance and this is only for Medicaid, not Medicare).
  • The Governor declared a state of emergency to access maximum resources. These measures are meant to slow the spread of the Coronavirus and avoid overwhelming the health care system. He also ordered the Department of Labor to authorize additional paid sick leave and urged private businesses to do the same. Please read the Executive Order.
  • The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) is the lead organization for the Colorado response to the virus.
    • Visit their website for updated information about testing.
    • For supplies such as N-95 masks for your in-home care, go through your local emergency management system. They must prioritize these requests in addition to getting supplies to health care providers.
    • CDPHE also manages testing individuals for the virus, although currently, in a limited capacity.


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What is our federal government doing?

  • The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is the principal agency for accurate information. They are working to reduce FDA barriers to get more test kits made quickly. 
  • A vaccine is in development in Israel. However, it will take 18 months or longer for testing and approval, even with an expedited process.
  • Insurance companies are required to waive copays and deductibles for TESTING. People still may experience bills for treatment if they have private insurance.
  • Under consideration is a multi-billion dollar relief effort and request for payroll tax reduction. The intent is to help employers pay for sick leave, but it is unclear how this filters down.
  • Quickly moving through Congress is a bill to increase Medicaid federal match, boost SNAP benefits, increase access to unemployment and sick leave, and a host of other things to limit the impact of COVID-19 on people and states. 


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How can you help?

  • Fill out your census form. Resources are allocated based on the number of people. You should have gotten information in the mail. You can also follow this link here to fill out the census online. Since you are most likely stuck at home, you have time.
  • Make sure you are registered to vote.  Study the various candidate positions on emergency response, health care, policy positions, and other things important to you. If you are not registered to vote, go here to register.
  • Be kind and helpful to others; check in on friends, fellow advocates, neighbors, remembering this is a stressful time for everyone.
  • For specific precautions regarding other organizations, such as your local transit provider, go to their website.


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What are the politics of this situation?

  • This is not a partisan issue — do not make it one.
  • This is not the fault of any group or country.
  • Our country should have been more prepared. We were not and now have to deal with that.
  • This crisis demonstrates why paid sick leave is essential for EVERYONE.
  • This crisis illustrates why a much better health care system is imperative.


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Next steps

  • There will be a webinar sometime this week with the Executive Director of the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF). Look for information on our website and Facebook page as it becomes available.
  • HCPF is sending a communication to CDASS clients about the temporary changes outlined above. These will be sent within the next 24 to 48 hours.
  • We are working closely with the Governor’s office regarding accessible documents and communications.
  • Anyone who is not a CCDC member, please join for free.  Check the areas of interest to receive the most current information. For example, if you check the housing area of interest, you will receive news and updates which affect people who are unhoused or living in public housing. There are thirteen different areas of interest to help you get the most current information of interest to you.


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Closing

Finally, we know this is a scary time, but we are a very resilient and tough population. As a community, we have been through sickness and death, and as a community, we always come out okay. We have much to offer to the rest of society about how to manage when things are difficult. Thank you for all you do and for being part of this awesome community. We will be in touch with new information as it becomes available. We will reach out as we identify different ways in which you can help strengthen our community as a whole.

Julie Reiskin, Executive Director
Josh Winkler and Lloyd Lewis Co-Chairs of the Board 

Important Notice
CCDC’s employees and/or volunteers are NOT acting as your attorney. Responses you receive via electronic mail, phone, or in any other manner DO NOT create or constitute an attorney-client relationship between you and the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (CCDC), or any employee of, or other person associated with, CCDC. The only way an attorney-client relationship is established is if you have a signed retainer agreement with one of the CCDC Legal Program attorneys.

Information received from CCDC’s employees or volunteers, or from this site, should NOT be considered a substitute for the advice of a lawyer. www.ccdconline.org DOES NOT provide any legal advice, and you should consult with your own lawyer for legal advice. This website is a general service that provides information over the internet. The information contained on this site is general information and should not be construed as legal advice to be applied to any specific factual situation.

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