Health Equity and COVID-19 - Minnesota Dept. of Health

Disabilities and Unique Health Needs During the COVID-19 Pandemic

People with disabilities may have underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of COVID-19 and COVID-19-related complications or may have particular concerns. Below are some resources to address those concerns, including answers to frequently asked questions.

On this page:
General Information
For caregivers
For health professionals
For school staff
Frequently asked questions

General information

For caregivers

In the event a person in your care gets sick, be sure to have an emergency plan completed, including emergency information for the person with unique health needs.

For health professionals

Communication and safety needs of some patients with disabilities may require that a support person be available.

For school staff

Children with disabilities may have underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of COVID-19 and related complications. Families may require additional resources and support during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the event a person in your care gets sick, encourage families to have an emergency plan, including emergency Information for the person with unique health needs.

Frequently asked questions

I am hard of hearing and have a hard time when others use a mask. What should I do?
Masks can make communication very hard for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. However, masks can help decrease the spread of COVID-19.

People may remove their masks when asked to do so by someone who is deaf or hard of hearing, if they can keep a safe social distance of 6 feet. A clear mask or plastic face shield can be worn so the face can be seen. Shields wrap around the sides of the face and cover the forehead to below the chin. People may also use speech-to-text apps, or write notes on paper or mobile devices.

I am unable to wear a mask. What should I do?
Wearing a mask can help slow the spread of COVID-19. However, some people cannot wear masks for medical and physical reasons. People who are unable to wear a mask may be able to wear a face shield instead.

If you cannot wear a mask or a face shield, try to stay away from places where you cannot keep at least 6 feet away from others.

  • If store customers must wear masks, you may still be able to shop before the store opens or after it closes. Call the store to find out if you can do this.
  • Ask family and friends to shop for you.
  • Shop online and pick up your items outside at the curb, or have them delivered.

Some employers are placing workers farther apart, putting up plastic screens, and taking other steps so employees can work safely. More information about reasonable accommodations is in the American Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended (PDF).

Learn more about Facemasks and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

A family member is in a group home. What do I need to know?
If a family member lives in a group setting, it is important to work with the on-site care team. Ask about what measures they have in place to protect your loved one from COVID-19 and how they will still meet the needs of your loved one. Sometimes it can be hard to do both, and they may need to change some practices.

My family member is at risk and we need more personal protective equipment for their personal care staff. What should we do?
If you use services through an agency, check with agency staff for access to personal protective equipment. You may also check with medical suppliers about ordering some.

If you continue to have trouble finding the personal protective equipment you need, call the Minnesota Department of Health Helpline at 1-800-657-3504.

I am worried that I will not get the care I need because of my disability. How do they decide who gets care when there is not enough to go around?Deciding how to use limited medical resources during a health crisis depends on medical, ethical, community, and resource considerations. In Minnesota, simply having a disability does not make a person less likely than others to get the care they need for COVID-19 or any other health issue. If you need a ventilator for other health issues, it will not be taken from you to extend supplies for others.

Minnesota is using COVID-19 testing and other safety measures to keep people from getting sick all at the same time. This lessens the daily demand for medical resources, so that resources can help keep up with patient needs.

I am a caregiver of someone who has a disability that makes communicating very hard. This person would need extra support if they go into the hospital. I have heard that nobody can stay with someone in the hospital who has COVID-19. Is this true?
Hospitals should let at least one support person or legal guardian go to the hospital, visit in the hospital, or stay in the hospital with someone who has a disability or who is a child. Safety methods must be followed. The Minnesota Department of Health has provided guidance to Minnesota hospitals to support the needs of patients with disabilities and pediatric patients.

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