When the coronavirus pandemic infected much of Long Island, group homes for the disabled struggled with similar issues as those challenging equipment-strapped hospitals and at-risk nursing homes, but with none of the fanfare.
Among such impacted facilities on LI were group homes run by CP Nassau, a Roosevelt-based nonprofit that cares for people with cerebral palsy, including 150 residents, dozens of whom contracted COVID-19 and at least 10 of whom died of coronavirus, officials say.
“Gowns were probably our biggest challenge,” says Robert McGuire, the group’s executive director for the past 23 years, adding that masks had to be reused. “Our gown situation was so bad that at one point people were using garbage bags.”
CP Nassau’s 18 residential group homes — eight of which were quarantined between March and April after staffers or residents either tested positive for coronavirus or exhibited symptoms — are just among dozens of such facilities that various organizations use to house people with disabilities. Such group homes in the New York Metro area were 5.34 times more likely than the general population to develop coronavirus and 4.86 times more likely to die from it, according to a New York Disability Advocates study.
“In many of the cases for our guys, they require a two-person lift,” says McGuire. “If you and I were lifting somebody, we’d be on both sides of them, and we’d all three of us be nose to nose. And many of our guys don’t have either a physical ability, or the mental awareness to cover their nose, to cover their cough, and so therefore the exposure is there.”
For CP Nassau, the staffers had to quarantine for weeks with group home residents to ensure isolation. Worst hit was the agency’s largest group home in Bayville, where 37 of 46 residents were infected, 10 were hospitalized, and five died.
“That volume sent shockwaves through our staff,” McGuire says. “Everybody knew they were involved in an environment that was potentially a danger to them and for those that went home, a danger to their family, too … I’ve always known they do saintly things, but they were doing heroic things.”
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