BAYVILLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Behind the walls of a group home for the developmentally disabled on Long Island, fevers were spreading like wildfire.
It was up to the staff to enter the coronavirus battleground, reports CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan.
Bob McGuire, executive director of CP Nassau in Bayville, took CBS2 on a virtual tour of the facility under quarantine where 37 of the 46 residents tested positive for COVID-19, three died and nine remain hospitalized.
“Saints are doing heroic things day after day,” he said.
Rather than run off, the minimum wage caregivers ran in.
“Fifteen people came with their toothbrushes and pillows to stay for 14 days, knowing they were staying,” said McGuire.
Soon eight of those dedicated workers themselves got the virus.
“Some of them broke down crying when they learned they were positive,” he said.
Because they could no longer help the residents, living with everything from cerebral palsy to autism.
“It’s a challenge but we have so much care and compassion, we put fear aside,” said worker Winfield Jackson.
For residents like Reed, just released from Glen Cove hospital, social distancing and hand washing is nearly impossible. Their caregivers are their last defense.
“It’s difficult, but we are maintaining,” he said. “We have a lot of great staff.”
A study now shows those in special needs group homes are five times more likely than the general population to get COVID-19 and die from it.
“It’s a horrific statistic, it’s important that we know it,” said Mike Alvar of New York Disability Advocates.
“Two days ago we added two more group homes to our quarantine,” said McGuire. “We are hoping that’s the end, but we don’t know that.”
The emotional toll has been heavy on everyone.
“This is not a normal family life setting,” said McGuire. “Although I have to tell you that our staff acts as if it is their family.”
Leaders hope the disabled, often forgotten, and their caregivers now become part of the public health discussion.