Mary Cariola Center, URMC to study how COVID-19 affects people with disabilities

Two local agencies will work together to help scientists better understand how COVID-19 affects people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The Mary Cariola Center in Rochester is participating in a national study conducted by the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience at UR Medicine.

“This study means the world to us, to our families, to our staff, to our students. Some might say it’s a godsend, ”said Karen Zandi, President / CEO of Mary Cariola.

Zandi said she also viewed this opportunity as a way to keep her school safe.

“This will help us understand how to best test the population, how COVID is spread in schools, and is imperative for keeping people with DID safe,” Zandi said.

The $ 4 million project, funded by the National Institutes of Health, will allow the University of Rochester Medical Center to collect test and antibody samples from some of Mary Cariola’s students and staff during the two years to help provide critical information on how the virus is spreading among the vulnerable population. The data collected during this study will be merged with information collected from other sites across the country.

“Ultimately, this study will have major implications for schools across the United States and in particular for schools that serve vulnerable students,” said Dr. John Foxe, director of the Delmonte Institute.

According to the NIH, an unvaccinated person with an intellectual and developmental disability is four times more likely to contract COVID-19 and eight times more likely to die from the disease than a person without DID.

Foxe said this research will help institutions like Mary Cariola make the best decisions for her students and staff and communicate effectively.

“A big part of our project here is trying to better understand how to get our message across to community members (DLIs) in a clearer, more compelling, and cohesive way, so that they can make the choices they want. need. do, ”Foxe said.

Sarah Tedesco’s son Harry is one of the students participating in the study. She said her decision to enroll Harry, who has autism and an intellectual disability, was driven by the lack of COVID-19 information available to parents seeking answers for children with disabilities.

“Involving Harry in the study seemed like a way for him to make a valuable contribution to helping families like ours with these kinds of decisions,” Tedesco said.

In addition to collecting research samples, the Del Monte Institute will also have a mobile vehicle that will allow them to travel between school and students’ homes to test and track those who may be positive.

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