Information sharing - CIEP Advisory: WASILC COVID-19 Situational Report 3/6/2020

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Information sharing - CIEP Advisory: WASILC COVID-19 Situational Report 3/6/2020

Situational Awareness Report: COVID-19 & Access and Functional Needs March 6, 2020


Public health agencies in the United States are responding to an outbreak of a respiratory disease caused by a novel coronavirus (new virus) that was first discovered in the Wuhan Province in China. The disease caused by the virus has been named COVID-19.

Access & Functional Needs Considerations:
In addition to the immediate health implications individuals may face from COVID-19, those with disability-related access and functional needs could also be impacted by reductions in public services, such as transportation and healthcare, that we all rely on each day to maintain health, safety, and independence. If the systems and people who deliver critical services are unable to work, individuals with disabilities may be impacted in the following ways:

 Reduced or eliminated access to transportation
 Failure of daily personal care support staff to assist individuals with cooking, bathroom activities, or other basic daily requirements
 Inability to obtain medications
 Inability to obtain food

For example, in China it has been reported that a 17-year-old with Cerebral Palsy died after his father and brother were quarantined, leaving the boy alone and without care.1 It could also become more difficult for individuals who routinely use disposable medical supplies to secure these supplies. These types of structural challenges could result in cascading medical complications related to disability that could require more medical care, placing greater stress on the healthcare system.

Populations of Concern:
Of particular concern are those who have medical care needs and individuals who may rely on in-home supports. Older adults and people with disabilities may depend on paid caregivers, their adult children, other family members or friends who assist with medication, groceries, communication, and other daily living needs. Many of these individuals may not be connected to any official service. There are also adult children with disabilities in similar situations.


Greater Transmission Risks:
Individuals with disabilities who receive daily or weekly personal care support are not able to self-quarantine as effectively. Support staff could be a COVID-19 vector, introducing the virus into residences of already medically vulnerable populations. Individuals who are blind or low vision and who use tactile senses to navigate or communicate could be at greater risk for contracting and transmitting the virus.

Quarantine Considerations:
All discussions about quarantine sites must include how access and functional needs will be met. In Washington State, a decision was hastily made to rent recreational vehicles for use as temporary quarantine housing at a state-owned facility.2 Recreational vehicles are generally not appropriate for individuals with mobility-related needs, medical equipment, or other access and functional needs related to disability or age.

Communicating Health Information:
The SILC recommends that emergency management and public health agencies to ensure that ASL interpreters can be secured in a timely manner for press briefings. This requires contracting with organizations that provide ASL interpreters and identifying qualified teams of hearing and deaf interpreters with experience in communicating public health issues and prepared to be deployed as the need arises. The interpreter must be shown in the video throughout each briefing. All such communication must include professionally created open captions to reinforce audible content as well as audio description for visual content.

Coalition on Inclusive Emergency Planning (CIEP) Activities:* CIEP is a statewide, cross-disability, advisory group that works with state and local emergency management stakeholders to build disability accessibility and inclusion into all aspects of emergency management. CIEP is funded by a grant from the WA Department of Health Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response. CIEP is participating in the following COVID-19 activities:

 Conference calls with our partners throughout Washington State and with national leaders in the emergency preparedness and disability space.
 Establishing effective communication protocols in community notifications.
 Maintaining connections with local and regional partners such as Pierce County, WA’s Office of Emergency Management on the use of FAST (Functional Assessment Service Team) during isolation/quarantine events.
 Informing stakeholders on government-recommended prevention measures and disability-specific recommendations related to COVID-19 on website3.

*This document was developed in collaboration with the Idaho SILC and FEMA Region 10 Disability Integration Specialist. Please send access and functional needs questions to 



Phone: 360.339.7435 

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