The vulnerable population is feeling Covid-19 effects: “Although the world's shutting down, our residential facilities can't shut down."

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Saturday ordered facilities providing adult day services to those with developmental disabilities to close, save for settings with 10 or fewer people. The move affects 26,000 people in the state, according to the Columbus Dispatch. 

Earlier in the week, the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities notified providers and county boards of developmental disabilities that developmental centers should restrict visitor access and stop off-campus adult day support services, but stopped short of mandating quarantine or shutting down altogether.

ARC Industries, one of the Columbus region’s largest providers of day services, announced Monday it was closing multiple locations for up to four weeks or longer in response to requirements and guidelines from the Ohio Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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The Columbus Center for Human Services stopped serving the more than 200 people in its career, activity and community programs and its Open Door Art Studio. That includes clients who volunteer at about 30 different locations  in acentral Ohio, those who are employed in various programs and clients who rely on the center for activities. The art studio alone hosts more than 120 people who are assisted by staff artists to create their own art. 

Becky Sharp, the organization’s executive director, said the art space was shut down because fewer clients were attending after the CDC released “social distancing” measures suggesting that no more than 50 people gather in one place.

The art studio staff, as well as staff from the other programs that have closed down, are working at the center’s intermediate care facilities, Sharp said. The center has both its own residential facilities for the developmentally disabled and a program that helps the developmentally disabled live on their own. Because those facilities have been forced to limit or restrict visitors, more staff assistance is needed to serve the roughly 170 adults, Sharp said.

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“Although the world’s shutting down, our residential facilities can’t shut down,” she said. “They’re depending on us for their lives.”

Clients with breathing issues, for example, can no longer do their own shopping due to the heightened risk of the coronavirus and must rely on the center’s staff to do it for them.

Goodwill Columbus has about 300 developmentally disabled adults in its day programs, which include a work-and-community services program for those who also have mental illness, a work-and-activity program for 18- to 44-year olds and an activities program for adults 45 and older. Those individuals are working in smaller groups and are practicing social distancing in an effort to limit spread of the coronavirus, said Tiffany Martin, director of work and community services.

Goodwill also provides support services to about 110 adults who live in their own homes, Martin said.

Kathy Lynn Gray is a freelance writer.