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As COVID-19 deaths associated with nursing facilities exceed 150,000, members of ADAPT call on Congress to pass the Disability Integration Act


For More information:
Raquel Bernstein: (516) 203-5619
Dawn Russell: (303) 884-1471
Daniese McMullin-Powell: (302) 507-7546

As COVID-19 deaths associated with nursing facilities exceed 150,000, members of ADAPT call on Congress to pass the Disability Integration Act

On January 28, 2021 COVID-19 deaths associated with nursing facilities in the United States exceeded 150,000 according to the national tracking site managed by The Atlantic. While institutionalized individuals make up less than 1% of the population, people in institutions account for 36% of all COVID-19 deaths. With a total of 1.5 million nursing facility residents nationally, one-in-ten nursing facility residents have now died from COVID-19.

In some places the devastation is even worse. After the release of a report by its Attorney General, New York State updated it and published reports on the number of COVID-19 deaths in their nursing facilities. They now report that nearly 13,000 nursing facility residents have died from COVID-19 in that state. When the pandemic began, there were approximately 100,000 residents in NYS nursing facilities, so during the last year more than one-in-eight elderly and Disabled residents in NYS nursing facilities have died from COVID-19.

“This is a humanitarian crisis,” said Raquel Bernstein, an ADAPT organizer in New York City. “The COVID-19 pandemic has been deadliest in congregate settings because individuals are not able to socially distance themselves and must share rooms and staff. Had these individuals been living in the community, it is likely most would still be alive today.”

Research published in JAMDA, the Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine, confirms ADAPT’s argument. Researchers compared the infection and death rates of people in Connecticut nursing facilities to those receiving services in the community and demonstrated that people receiving services in the community were 11 times less likely to get infected with COVID-19 and die than their nursing facility counterparts. Although some may assume that the COVID-19 deaths in nursing facilities and other institutions were unavoidable or exacerbated because people in institutions are “sick” and “frail,” the research told a different story. The researchers found that – after infection – the death rates in the community and in the nursing facilities were comparable which means the nursing facility residents were not, in fact, more “frail” than their peers in the community. In summarizing their findings, the researchers noted that “The main distinction between groups was their living situation. It is likely that living in the community, vs a congregate setting, accounts for the significantly lower infection rates.”

“We have always known that nursing facilities and other institutions were death traps that cut short our lives,” said Dawn Russell, an ADAPT activist from Denver, Colorado. “Based on this research, over 136,000 of these individuals would still be alive today if they just had been living in the community.”

ADAPT is calling on Congress to take action and pass the Disability Integration Act (DIA). DIA is a civil rights bill written by and for people with disabilities and has been sponsored in the Senate by Majority Leader Charles Schumer (NY). DIA mandates that individuals eligible for placement in a nursing facility or other congregate setting be given the option to live in the community where they can lead an independent life.

“When we started this effort, we were fighting for our freedom, now we are fighting for our very lives as Disabled people die in droves across the country,” said Ms. Russell. “Now that society sees how deadly these facilities are, Congress should at least give us the right to say ‘no’ when a state or managed care company tries to force us into an institution.”


American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today (ADAPT) was founded by the Reverend Wade Blank who, in 1975, assisted several nursing facility residents with significant disabilities to move into the community. Three years later, the group organized the nation’s first demonstration for wheelchair-accessible public buses. The Gang of Nineteen evolved into ADAPT which successfully secured the right to accessible public buses, saved Medicaid and Obamacare, and is fighting to bring the promise of freedom to all Disabled individuals who would otherwise be institutionalized through its efforts to pass the Disability Integration Act. ADAPT’s history, the issues we are fighting for and our activities can be followed on our web site at, our ADAPT Facebook page and on Twitter.

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