Current Issues......................................................................................................................Page 1
How does COVID disproportionately affect people with disabilities?............................Page 3
How can I stay informed?....................................................................................................Page 5
COVID in the Media..............................................................................................................Page 5
Currently, there are no statewide or countywide school mask mandates in place. Scarce individual school districts are keeping their masking policies in place after the CDC issued updated masking guidelines in late February. Neither the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) nor the Governor have announced plans or transparent metrics for how they will decide when and if we will ever have another statewide mask mandate. There is also no roadmap for how the State of Michigan will ensure counties follow CDC recommendations, as many did not during the fourth surge, despite being high risk areas.
As schools continue to be one of the most common settings for COVID outbreaks, some parents and students are celebrating the lack of mask requirements, while others unjustly fear for their safety. Across the state, volatile school board meetings, resignations of local health and school board officials, and attempts to defy mandates have taken place among parents and local officials alike who are divided by this issue. Issuing a clear statewide plan for how and when mask mandates will be implemented in the future would eliminate confusion and better protect students, families, and school staff from COVID.
In addition to there currently being no statewide school mask mandate, there is no statewide general indoor mask mandate – no matter the size or type of gathering nor the type of venue. As Michigan’s vaccination rates lag behind the national average, we need to be using all scientifically proven measures we can to protect our state. Yet again, there is no transparent plan for how the State will protect our disability communities.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention previously called for indoor masking in areas of high transmission, which included every county in Michigan and most counties in the country. However, the February 2022 CDC guidelines deprioritized the importance of case counts in calculating risk levels, shifting the risk status of about 70% of the country overnight. MDHHS must provide a clear plan for how it will make decisions regarding statewide mask mandates and up-to-date vaccination requirements in public spaces where social distancing cannot be guaranteed.
Even though the US Department of Health & Human Services has issued guidance to health care providers that services and resources cannot be kept from disabled people during public health emergencies with scarce resources, there are currently no state laws protecting disabled Michiganders from medical discrimination in care rationing. In April of 2020, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed an Executive Order requiring healthcare facilities to create and share policies preventing discrimination in case demands for critical health care resources exceeded availability (example: ventilators). However, in July of 2020, Governor Whitmer signed another Executive Order stating the previous non-discrimination order would be terminated when Michigan’s state of emergency was lifted. Consequently, as of June 2021, people with disabilities no longer have the same protections from care rationing. With over 70% of Intensive Care Unit beds full, over fifty patients on ventilators, and a continued backlog on healthcare treatments, Governor Whitmer and the State of Michigan need to once again protect people with disabilities against medical discrimination.
In a system where doctors admit to biases against people with disabilities, it is vitally important to track disability data so that treatment and outcome disparities can also be documented. Knowing that people with disabilities are at a higher risk of contracting and dying from COVID-19, the state needs to capture disability data when collecting COVID-19 statistics. Right now, the State of Michigan only tracks COVID-related data by age group, sex, and race, omitting the crucial impact the pandemic has had on the disabled community. With COVID cases and hospitalizations still at relatively high rates, the State must prioritize capturing COVID-related disability data. Only when we have the data outlining how people with disabilities are affected by COVID can we work to ensure that the disabled community is not disproportionately impacted in preventable ways and perpetually overlooked in vaccine distribution.
The state of Michigan must also ensure that the disabled community is involved in the development and implementation of this data. Both data collection and the final data must be accessible to people with disabilities. Public health entities should work with the disabled community to create a data system that is fully inclusive to people with disabilities, and make sure the data collected is publicly available.
The CDC reports that people with disabilities have a tougher time getting access to the COVID vaccine, even though they’re more likely to want the vaccine. Why? Inaccessible scheduling options, inaccessible vaccination sites, and lack of media campaigns targeting people with disabilities have created barriers to vaccinations. Such barriers also apply to testing sites. At-home tests have also been inaccessible to many; however there are now some programs with accessible tests. In addition, the Department of Health and Human Services has issued a formal request for information that specifically asks test manufacturers to include an assessment of the accessibility of their tests (including self-administration and result interpretation). If those assessments find access barriers, manufacturers are then asked to provide a clear and definitive description of how they can improve the accessibility of their products. Finally, when such tests are developed, they need to be free and accessible to disabled residents who need them.
The World Health Organization reported that people with disabilities are at greater risk of--and are more significantly impacted by--contracting COVID-19 because of things like: physical barriers to accessing hygiene, difficulty enacting social distancing, touching things for information or for physical support, barriers to accessing public health information and care, and aggravation of underlying health conditions.
The CDC also reports that adults of any age with the following disability-related conditions are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19: Down syndrome, cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD, heart conditions, Type II Diabetes, and sickle cell disease. Other research institutions (linked throughout this document) have also released data that point to increased risk for people with developmental disabilities (DD), intellectual disabilities or autism (ID/A), untreated ADHD, schizophrenia, Type I Diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. At every age, the more comorbidities present, the higher the risk of COVID-19 complications and mortality.
Though the risks of COVID-19 increase with age, people under 70 with comorbidities have a higher mortality risk than people of all ages with comorbidities (Example: In all age groups, people with developmental disabilities are 3.06x more likely to die from COVID-19 than people who do not have developmental disabilities; however, for people under the age of 70, people with developmental disabilities are 4.76x more likely to die from COVID-19 than people who do not have developmental disabilities) (FAIR Health).
In addition to the disability-specific impacts below, the Administration for Community Living recently released a research findings on COVID-19 Response: Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on People with Disabilities, which details how disabled people have been disproportionately impacted throughout the pandemic and highlights research gaps and opportunities.
Developmental Disabilities (DD)
Accounting for age, COVID-19 patients with developmental disabilities had the highest odds of dying from COVID-19 (e.g., developmental disorders of speech and language, developmental disorders of scholastic skills, central auditory processing disorders) (FAIR Health).
Intellectual Disabilities (ID)
Accounting for age, COVID-19 patients with intellectual disabilities and related conditions had the third highest risk of COVID-19 death (e.g., Down syndrome and other chromosomal anomalies; mild, moderate, severe and profound intellectual disabilities; congenital malformations, such as certain disorders that cause microcephaly) (FAIR Health).
Accounting for age, sex, ethnicity, and geographical location, adults on the British learning disability register had a 5x higher risk of COVID-19 related hospitalization and an 8x higher risk of COVID-19 related death than adults not on the register. These numbers were higher among those with certain disabilities like Down Syndrome and cerebral palsy (London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Oxford University and Public Health England).
People with Down syndrome are at 4x higher risk of COVID-19–related hospitalization and a 10x higher risk for COVID-19–related death (American College of Physicians). Another more recent study cited a 36x higher risk for COVID-19 related death (London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Oxford University and Public Health England).
People with Austistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are more likely to be infected with COVID-19, and hospitalized for COVID-19 (National Library of Medicine).
Evidence shows that ADHD may limit the ability to comply with Covid-19 prevention recommendations. Untreated ADHD is a risk factor for Covid-19 infection, but drug-treatment eliminates this effect (National Library of Medicine).
People with schizophrenia, a mental disorder that affects mood and perception of reality, are almost 3x more likely to die from COVID-19 (JAMA Psychiatry).
Heart conditions such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies, and pulmonary hypertension create higher risk for COVID-19 severity and mortality (FAIR Health).
People with Alzheimer’s disease are at a higher risk of COVID-19 mortality across all age groups, and the evidence also suggests that underlying biological and genetic factors may be associated with COVID-19 death (FAIR Health).
Patients with COVID-19 and lung cancer were nearly 7x more likely to die, and those with leukemia or lymphoma were nearly 3x more likely to die (FAIR Health).
Diabetes Mellitus (Types I & II)
COVID-positive patients with Type I or Type II diabetes have a 3-4x higher risk of hospitalization and severe illness. Type II diabetes also creates higher risk of death (Helio).
Hemoglobin disorders such as sickle cell disease and thalassemia
Individuals with sickle cell disease face over 6x the risk for COVID-19-related death compared with the general Black population (Helio).
COPD, cystic fibrosis, pulmonary fibrosis, and other chronic lung diseases
While COPD is less likely to be present in COVID-19 patients (likely due to extreme precaution), it is still associated with higher rates of mortality for those who do become sick with the virus (CHEST Journal).
Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)
CKD is the most common comorbidity of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 (FAIR Health).
Center for Disease Control (CDC) COVID-19 Data Tracker - The CDC provides national, statewide, and local data for COVID-19 case rates and vaccination rates.
State of Michigan COVID-19 Data Tracker - The State of Michigan provides current and continuously updated statewide data on COVID-19 transmission rates and vaccination rates as well as regional data, updates on hospitals, and data that breaks down how different demographics are affected by COVID-19.
“More than 8,900 died from the virus in Michigan this year, down from 15,000 in 2021 and 13,000 in 2020. Still, Michigan’s mortality rate from COVID-19 is the nation’s fifth-highest.”
Ongoing Impacts of the Pandemic on Medicaid Home & Community-Based Services (HCBS) Programs: Findings from a 50-State Survey
“Widespread workforce shortages are the biggest challenges facing state Medicaid home and community-based (HCBS) programs and those shortages were greatly amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic, which reduced the number of potential workers and increased the demand for services.”
“The CDC’s latest update reporting data on nursing home deaths as of January 30th pushes the reported number of deaths over this bleak milestone. This finding comes at a time when the national surge in cases due to the Omicron variant has started to subside, deaths are rising nationwide, and nursing homes have been working to increase vaccination and booster rates among residents and staff…”
“In less than three years, more than 40,000 Michiganders have died of COVID-19 — adding to a national death toll that has swelled beyond 1 million people…‘A higher proportion of deaths related to COVID-19, either as the main or contributing cause of death, are actually occurring outside the hospital.’”
“All Metro Detroit health departments are following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that recommend indoor masking for public settings and K-12 schools as the rate of infection has grown from “medium" to "high”...A new iteration of the omicron variant, BA.5, now is the dominant strain across the country, thanks to its elusiveness when encountering the human immune system.”
“This plan lays out the roadmap to help us fight COVID-19 in the future as we begin to get back to our more normal routines.”
"The new initiative will include guidance for schools and resources for parents to ensure that vulnerable students can access the services and supports they need, the White House said.”
"Case rates and percent positivity ... should not be the main focus now. It's about severity of disease and how many people are ending up in hospitals."
"Oakland and Wayne counties announced Friday that students will no longer be under a county-wide school mask mandate as of March 1, marking the end of county-level mask orders in K-12 schools."
“Last month, the state reported its lowest count of primary doses administered (213,709) in a given month since vaccines became available. Michigan’s at-least partially vaccinated population climbed 1.2% during that time, leaving more than 3.3 million eligible residents remaining unvaccinated.”
“Michigan has seen a 32% decrease in K-12 schools requiring masking from the first month of the 2021-22 academic year until early February, despite the state’s COVID-19 infections being more than quadruple what they were in the fall.”
"In the first year of the pandemic, 104,149 babies were born in Michigan but 117,087 people died in the state, Metzger said — a difference of 12,938.... Among them were 11,362 Michigan residents who died from COVID-19...
When added to a declining birth rate, an aging population and a lack of immigrants... COVID-19 exacerbated an already downward population spiral that could have wide-reaching economic and political implications for the state.
...people are [also] delaying births even more because of COVID, even as more people are dying from the virus."
"The arrival of omicron, and additional evidence about falling immunity, showed more clearly a widespread need for boosters.
But the message “has been lost in the sea of changing recommendations and guidance,” Schwartz said.
The AP-NORC Center poll found that 59% of Americans think it is essential that they receive a vaccine to fully participate in public life without feeling at risk of COVID-19 infection. Only 47% say the same about a booster shot."
“With the number of cases and contacts that we have, we just do not have the human resources across the state to do all of that contact tracing,” Hertel told Bridge Michigan on Wednesday.
“As a parent, it (misleadingly low school outbreak data) gives us a false sense of security as to what is actually happening in our schools,” Kessler said. “We don’t know then if the spread is happening in the school environment or from the community.”
“Given the current trend and the prevalence of the new COVID variant, it is fair to assume that COVID could be present in every classroom and building,” wrote Oxford Superintendent Tim Throne.
“The additions bring the state overall totals to 1,832,716 confirmed cases and 28,980 deaths since March 2020.
...The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday recorded 4,453 adults and 114 pediatric patients are hospitalized with confirmed infections in the state. About 83% of the state's inpatient hospital beds are occupied.”
“‘When we look at our most pessimistic model, we're looking at about 200,000 cases per week in Michigan. And in fact, the most pessimistic model does seem to be the most accurate,’ she said Tuesday in a briefing with reporters from across the state.
New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey have rates already double Michigan, while Rhode Island’s rate — 507 cases per 100,000 per day — is triple. Omicron hit those states earlier than it hit Michigan.
All of those states have vaccination rates far above that of Michigan, where 58 percent of those 5 years-old and older are fully vaccinated.”
“‘...The increased transmissibility of the omicron variant is not only leading to more patients admitted to the hospital, but also infecting vital caregivers and impacting hospital capacity.’”
“More than 3,000 Michigan health care workers are off the job because they tested positive for coronavirus or were exposed to it, forcing hospitals to postpone some elective procedures as they brace for an influx of more patients in a COVID-19 surge fueled by the highly transmissible omicron variant.”
“The major Michigan school districts that decided to shut down in-person classes in the new year serve higher populations of students of color, particularly Black students… The latest round illustrates deepening and persistent inequities in school closures. Unlike in the beginning of the pandemic when the state dictated widespread shutdowns, individual districts for more than a year now have been left to decide when to close.”
"There are no more health care providers," said Elizabeth Hertel, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. "We are trying to help all of the facilities as much as possible, but we really don't have anybody left."
“Confusion and frustration are mounting in Michigan schools, as districts scramble to keep classrooms open amidst the most contagious COVID-19 variant since the pandemic began.
Schools are navigating ever-shifting quarantine policies, face-mask mandates that have expired in some places while being implemented elsewhere, all while struggling to hang onto teachers and bus drivers able to stay healthy.”
“Although coronavirus generally does not cause severe illness in most children…the hospitalization rate among unvaccinated kids was 10 times higher than among those who had gotten a COVID-19 vaccine… Yet children are among the least vaccinated against COVID-19 in Michigan. About 31% of children ages 5-19 are fully vaccinated and about 36% have had at least one dose, state data shows. That compares with 57% of Michiganders overall who are fully vaccinated.”
“...the average daily COVID positivity rate was 23 percent — among the highest it's been since testing became widely available for asymptomatic people in mid-2020.”
“Even though the variant is mild for most, the wave has increased hospital admissions statewide by 400 in one week, a 10 percent rise, while forcing hundreds of critical health-care workers to quarantine.”
“About 80% of what's happened with COVID-19 in Michigan hospitals this year was preventable…That includes not only the direct impact on individuals with the virus, but also the effects on people delaying seeking care for other ailments and the strain on the state's health care workforce, she said.”
“Michigan on Wednesday recorded COVID-19 case counts that shattered a previous high, reporting nearly 13,000 a day — almost a third more than the peak set over a year ago. The two-day average was 12,929, some 3,100 infections above the nearly 9,800 from a single day in November 2020.”
“Michigan's top health officials have described the state's COVID-19 situation as "critical," and are urging vaccinations and boosters and masking amid a fourth surge of the virus that's bringing record levels of hospitalizations.
Last Monday, the state health department reported 4,518 adults were hospitalized with confirmed virus infections, the highest number of the pandemic so far. That tally has been trending upward since July.”
“...’our message to every American is clear: There is action you can take to protect yourself and your family. Wear a mask in public indoor settings. Get vaccinated. Get your kids vaccinated and get a booster shot when you're eligible.’”
“The omicron variant is quickly gaining ground in the U.S., health officials warned Wednesday, as two more confirmed cases of the coronavirus strain were identified in Michigan.
Although the strain is now estimated to make up only about 3% of coronavirus cases in the U.S., "early data suggests that omicron is more transmissible than delta, with a doubling time of about two days," said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
At that level of growth, omicron could be the dominant strain of the virus in the U.S. before the new year.”
“Being at a point where they’re weighing which patients can come off the waitlist is ‘nerve-racking,’ and Maggert worries about how patient outcomes are being affected. She remembers how surreal it felt early in the pandemic when there were projections that hospitals would have to make decisions about who would get a ventilator. Now, nearly two years later, Midland is having to make its own choices.
“‘We're not there yet, but (we) are making decisions on who gets care and who doesn't in some fashion, right? When we cancel surgeries. When we say who can come and who can't. When somebody has clearly been on more than one waitlist, and we know that we're never going to be able to address that concern,’ Maggert said.”
“Hospitals across the state are ‘rescheduling non-emergency medical procedures, placing emergency departments on diversion, and experiencing long wait times in the emergency department’...”
“Michigan hospitals are overwhelmed in the fourth surge of COVID-19 and federal staffing help is tapped out.
...The state is also accessing its ventilator stockpile and requesting an additional 200 ventilators from the Strategic National Stockpile to deal with the growing number of hospitalized COVID patients requiring mechanical assistance to breathe, Hertel said. The state has 80 national stockpile ventilators in its possession and 724 state- or health care coalition-owned ventilators.
As of Dec. 8, there were 601 hospitalized COVID patients on a ventilator, or about 13 percent of all hospitalized COVID patients.”
“Hertel was asked if the state was considering new restrictions but she did not address them at all, instead calling for more people to get vaccinated and, if vaccinated, to get a booster shot.
For months the Whitmer administration has continued to push vaccines and boosters, while recommending that everyone wear a mask when indoors in public.
But unlike in 2020 and earlier this year, no statewide public health orders for the general public have been adopted. Officials have acknowledged COVID-19 “fatigue” and have instead sought to encourage but not demand safety measures.”
“Early analysis of UK Omicron and Delta cases showed the vaccines were less effective at stopping the new variant.
However, a third booster dose significantly increased protection to around 75%.”
“Research has shown that omicron is more transmissible than the traditional strain, which could spell trouble for states like Michigan that are amid surges.
Michigan has one of the highest infection rates in the country and it has the highest rate of COVID-19 hospitalizations, which is canceling surgeries and other services.”
“Nearly 4,700 patients were in the hospital statewide amid a fourth surge in infections. The roughly 4,400 hospitalized adults with confirmed cases was at the highest point in the 21-month coronavirus pandemic and 150 more than a week ago…
Michigan recorded 351 additional deaths, including 166 in the most recent 48-hour period.”
“More than 85 percent of Michigan intensive care unit (ICU) beds and hospital inpatient beds are full, a dangerous and potentially deadly level of overcrowding as the state’s health system is strained by a fourth surge of COVID-19 cases...
Overcrowding at these levels isn’t just inconvenient. It can kill people. Once hospitals hit 75 percent ICU capacity, more patients are likely to die for medically-preventable reasons…”
“Nearly three dozen Michigan school districts have shuttered classrooms early in what was already a short holiday week, in hopes that a longer Thanksgiving break will tamp down COVID outbreaks and relieve staff shortages.
The closures come as COVID-19 outbreaks and infections in Michigan schools rise sharply. There were 140 new outbreaks in the week ending Nov. 18, according to data released Monday by Michigan officials, up 61 percent from the previous week. The number of positive cases linked to those new outbreaks hit 891, a 71 percent jump.”
“By almost every measure — the rate of hospitalizations, positive tests, new cases — Michigan is returning to rates last seen in the fall 2020 and spring 2021 surges, despite the widespread availability and acceptance of vaccines.
But now, the same sobering statistics that prompted statewide closures a year ago are getting a muted response from Whitmer’s office.”
"Michigan’s patchwork of school mask policies will become more frayed in the coming weeks, as some local health departments make plans to drop school mask mandates in response to COVID-19 vaccinations for elementary-aged children...
Some health departments based mandates on vaccine availability, and others on COVID transmission rate, which continues to be characterized as “high” in Michigan by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."
“Michigan is now seeing COVID cases increasing at their fastest pace since the third wave in March…
There are also 181 new outbreaks, with the predominance of those (104) occurring in K-12 schools. The second highest setting for outbreaks was assisted living adult day care group homes, which reported 38 new outbreaks.
Regarding the 744 ongoing outbreaks, schools and group homes also lead the rest, with K-12 schools reporting 428 ongoing outbreaks and assisted living adult day care group homes reporting 139 ongoing outbreaks.”
This resource was put together by Detroit Disability Power (Last updated 1/9/23) Page