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Texas Matters: Disabilities In The Pandemic, Fighting For Mail-In Ballots And Facing Our Masks

A woman is pushed in a wheelchair outside the Chateau Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, where health officials said a patient tested positive for COVID-19 in Willowbrook, Illinois.
Joshua Lott | Reuters
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A woman is pushed in a wheelchair outside the Chateau Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, where health officials said a patient tested positive for COVID-19 in Willowbrook, Illinois.

The COVID-19 pandemic is particularly alarming for those people with disabilities. Many are in environments like treatment centers and group homes were the virus can easily spread. Also a number of them have underlying medication conditions that can complicate treatment. But more alarming is that some states have issued medical guidance that unlawfully discriminates against people with intellectual disabilities and brain injuries.

Those states have flatly spelled out that disabled people should be last in line for a ventilator when they become in short supply during the peak of the coronavirus treatment crush.  This means those states see people with Down syndrome or autism as not ventilator worthy. 

Texas has not issued guidance on this issue. Groups like Disability Rights Texas are calling on Governor Greg Abbott to inform Texas medical providers about this issue.

Lisa Snead is an attorney for Disability Rights Texas. The group sent Gov. Abbott a letter asking him to issue medical guidelines concerning the rationing of ventilators and how people with disabilities will be considered during those difficult decisions.

Texas Mail-In Ballots

This week Wisconsin held an election despite the pandemic and a state stay-at-home order was in place. In a much criticized decision the U.S. Supreme Court declined to give absentee voters more time to turn in their ballots. Health experts said holding the in-person voting will spread COVID-19 and cost lives.

Texas has a primary run-off election scheduled for July 6. And what happened in Wisconsin could happen here.

The Texas Democratic party said it is looking to avoid that and this week it filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Texas to allow expanded mail in voting.

Chad Dunn is the general counsel for the Texas Democratic Party. This week they filed a lawsuit in United States District Court against Gov. Abbott, Secretary of State Ruth Hughes, the Travis County Clerk and the Bexar County Elections Administrator in an ongoing effort to demand mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Texas Democratic Party contends that state law allows any voter to cast a mail-in ballot given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

The Face of Masks

The Centers for Disease Control recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain — especially in places like grocery stores and other areas of significant community-based transmission. It is an additional, voluntary public health measure.  In the face of a pandemic with its hold on humanity throughout the world, it seems like a small gesture and effort to make. 

Texas Public Radio contributor Yvette Benavides unveils her thoughts on the subject.

David Martin Davies can be reached at DMDavies@TPR.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi.

Yvette Benavides is a professor of creative writing at Our Lady of the Lake University. She is the co-author of the book San Antonio 356 published by Trinity University Press.

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi