Column: Disabled people cannot learn to live with COVID

Rachel Charlton-Dailey (she/them) is an award-winning journalist specializing in health and disability. Their work has appeared in publications such as Healthline, Huffpost, Metro UK, The Guardian and Business Insider. Charlton-Dailey regularly uses their platform to focus on issues affecting people with disabilities. Here, they explain that the idea of ​​”returning to normal” is neither safe nor fair for people with disabilities.

As we approach the second anniversary of the pandemic, the virus is still spreading rapidly. But instead of being vigilant, many became complacent in the face of new variants. People long for a return to “normal,” whether in business, school, work, or their social lives.

But many of us can’t.

There’s an overwhelming sentiment that COVID-19 is something we all have to learn to live with and that we’ll all catch up with Omicron eventually. But for the disabled and vulnerable, such as the immunocompromised, COVID-19 can always be extremely dangerous. Not everyone will survive COVID-19.

In the UK, where I live, six out of ten COVID-related deaths in 2020 were people with disabilities. We’re one of the most vulnerable to COVID-19, and for a while, we’ve provided accommodations that really benefited us, from remote work to virtual game nights. However, now that the world is “returning to normal”, many of these accommodations have disappeared. Again, we were left behind.

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I feel like a big part of the reason I didn’t catch Omicron was that I basically quarantined again while everyone else went on with their lives. Just this week, for the fourth time since 2020, I canceled my tour of Six the Musical. I only go out to walk the dog or go to the supermarket twice a week. I miss my niece growing up. All the while, it breaks my heart to see so many people enjoying their lives on Instagram and Facebook like nothing is wrong.

Being vigilant all the time is exhausting. But just as exhausting is how many disabled people it takes to justify us worthy of being saved.

It’s worth noting that, like everyone else, I also feel that it is inevitable that I will get COVID-19 at some point. The difference is that I am scared. I have had COVID-19 before, the first time in April 2020. I’ve been sick for two weeks with the worst cough and chest pain I’ve ever experienced. My fatigue kept me from getting out of my bed.

Now, I do my best to stay vigilant. I’m lucky that in the UK the fast lateral flow test is free so I test myself every week. I’ve been testing negative so far, but I’m always nervous. It doesn’t help that some of the main symptoms associated with Omicron (like fatigue, throat classification and headaches) are also common in the lupus I have.

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What are the symptoms of Omicron?

Being vigilant all the time is exhausting. But just as exhausting is how many disabled people it takes to justify us worthy of being saved.

On January 7, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky appeared on Good Morning America to discuss a new CDC study. The study showed that of the 1.2 million people who were vaccinated between December 2020 and October 2021, only 0.015% became seriously ill and only 0.003% died.

Valensky was asked, “Given that this virus is here to stay, is it time to start rethinking how we live with this virus?” To me, her response was chilling:

“The vast majority of deaths — over 75 percent — occurred in people with at least four comorbidities. So these people were uncomfortable at first, and yes, in the context of Omicron, that’s really encouraging news. .”

For the disabled community, this feels like the final nail in the coffin. Yes, people died, but the head of the CDC thought it was encouraging that these were just people who were already unwell. It’s like she’s saying, “Well, they’re all going to die anyway.”

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Since then, the #MyDisabledLifeIsWorthy hashtag has been posted and amassed thousands of tweets. At first, this was a devastating read. We are angry. But slowly, something else emerged: the disabled community came together as usual. We demand accountability.

For now, Varensky has not apologized for her remarks, but disabled people will not forget this.

Column: Disabled again feeling left out of UK COVID-19 plans

For the disabled and vulnerable, this pandemic is incredibly isolating, not only because we have had to physically isolate, but because we realize that many see our safety as nothing more than an inconvenience.

Disabled people don’t have to convince you that their lives are worth saving. The fact that our chances of surviving COVID-19 have diminished should be a reason for the government to protect us more, not let us die.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means that you may have updated information as you read this article. For the latest updates on COVID-19, visit our Coronavirus news page.