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While Many Utahns Return To Usual Activities, Disabled People Still Limited During The Pandemic

Photo of grocery basket with a sign that says "stay home, we deliver."
Many people with disabilities remain at home during the pandemic, even after restrictions on gatherings and in public spaces are lifted. For some people, even going to the grocery store is too risky.

Most of Utah is in the low-risk phase of the state’s coronavirus pandemic response, and people are venturing out more. Dining in at restaurants, working out at gyms and group gatherings are all allowed under those limited restrictions.

But Karolyn Campbell is immunocompromised. She said all she wants to do is go grocery shopping for herself.

“I keep getting slightly spoiled fruit or slightly off meat delivered, and it’s disappointing every time,” Campbell said. “There’s certain things that are just nice to choose in person.”

As the executive director of the Disabled Rights Action Committee, Campbell said many community members are in the same boat. They might have underlying medical conditions, which means going out in public poses too great a risk to them. If they have mobility limitations, it’s harder for them to practice social distancing. 

The state’s coronavirus website instructs high-risk individuals to operate under more restrictive guidelines than the rest of the public because they’re more likely to experience severe illness if they contract the virus. 

Campbell said disabled people have largely relied on community support during the pandemic, with mutual aid groups delivering groceries or personal protective equipment to people in need. The state also offers to connect high-risk individuals with services like meal delivery and transportation if they can’t safely leave their homes.

But Psarah Johnson, the Disabled Rights Action Committee’s board chair, emphasized that everybody needs to take responsibility for public health by wearing a mask and taking other precautions.

She said it shouldn’t only be up to disabled people to protect themselves. 

“That’s just not feasible,” Johnson said. “We can’t continue to isolate for a year at a time.”

Campbell said she’s worried about schools reopening in the fall, and that a spike in cases will make the situation even less safe for vulnerable community members. 

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