Group home residents contracting coronavirus at five times the city rate

The following appeared in Crain’s Health Pulse on April 9, 2020.

The residents of group homes for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in New York City are getting sick with Covid-19 at about five times the rate of the overall city population, according to data shared with Crain’s from a coalition of agencies that operate the residences.

The New York Integrated Network and AHRC New York City said they had confirmed 117 cases among their 2,800 residents as of April 5. Nearly two-thirds of those individuals needed to be hospitalized, and 17 people had died. The organizations reporting data operate about one-fifth of the city’s residential beds regulated by the state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities.

“These are individuals who work together, socialize together. And staff come in every day,” said Arthur Webb, executive director of New York Integrated Network. “It’s a 24/7 model. It’s been a real struggle to do containment, quarantine or isolation in the homes. These were not set up as treatment centers, unlike nursing homes.”

The coalition is hoping to receive state support to purchase more protective equipment for its workers, pay staff for overtime and get more clinical support in the homes.

The agencies also reported 92 staff members had been diagnosed with Covid-19, and three had died as of April 5.

The homes provide residential care to individuals with a wide range of conditions, including autism and cerebral palsy. To comply with state guidelines, the facilities have canceled day programming and work opportunities.

Webb attributed the higher hospitalization rate among clients to the degree to which residents have underlying conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and congestive heart failure.

The homes have used an existing telemedicine relationship with StationMD to keep clients out of emergency departments.

Cerebral Palsy Associations of New York State, part of the coalition, received a $13 million grant to expand telemedicine at the residences last year.

“The telemedicine has been just a fantastic added value, and fortunately we were ahead of the curve in using it,” Webb said. —J.L.