Disability advocates claim Michigan left vulnerable residents behind amid COVID pandemic

‘This isn’t just about me and my child,’

Disability advocates say Michigan left state's vulnerable behind in pandemic
Disability advocates say Michigan left state's vulnerable behind in pandemic

DETROIT – An organization advocating for those with disabilities is claiming the state of Michigan left its most vulnerable population behind during the COVID-19 pandemic.

They said the state never tracked cases among people with disabilities and they want to know why.

For Chuck Kupovits and his 39-year-old daughter Pamela, the pandemic has been nothing short of life or death. Pamela has a lung disorder that leaves her at risk for coronavirus. As the state moved through the pandemic, Kupovits said they left people like his daughter out, even after multiple attempts to reach out to state and federal leaders.

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“Needless to say, I’m angry about it,” Kupovits said. “There’s a lot of other disabled people that are being neglected by the state as far as I’m concerned.”

Studies done over the course of the coronavirus pandemic show those with mobility or sensory disabilities are more at risk to die from COVID-19. Those with autism are twice as likely to die and those with down syndrome are 10 times more at risk.

Many disabilities also have compounding health and economic factors too making their risk even higher. A recent figure from the United Kingdom shows 60% of their COVID-related deaths were among those with a disability.

Despite those staggering numbers, those with disabilities are not listed on Michigan’s COVID Dashboard.

“It’s bad. It’s really bad,” said Dessa Cosma, with Detroit Disability Power. “It’s worse than any other disparity that we’re seeing in other communities.”

Detroit Disability Power has been calling on the state to release any data they might have on COVID and people with disabilities. Cosma said she’s been told the data is too complicated to collect even though the state does it in other areas already.

“Where’s the information about people with disabilities? Why isn’t that aggregated there so that we can use it to save people’s lives?” Cosma asked. “It needs to be transparent and it needs to be available for it to do any good.”

Local 4 reached out to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and were told the agency found about 4,000 people with disabilities in the COVID numbers since August. They added that a mortality study is currently being done, but those numbers still aren’t on the state’s dashboard.

More information can be found on Detroit Disability Power’s official website here.

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