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Find the latest information on the Coronavirus outbreak in Utah, including public health measures, contact information, news updates, and more.

People With Disabilities, Chronic Illnesses, Struggle To Access Care During Pandemic

A woman in a dentist chair.


Social distancing guidelines have made accessing healthcare challenging and in some cases impossible for people who have a disability or a chronic illness. And even when people could in theory access that care, the risks of infection leaving home creates may make them reluctant to venture out. One of these people struggling to access care is Lou McKee of Salt Lake City. 

In the past when McKee has had an abscessed tooth, it’s been a pretty quick fix. However, in the midst of the pandemic, it’s been a different story this time. 

“Because of my PTSD, I have quite severe dental issues from grinding,” McKee said. “I had to be on antibiotics now for three weeks because I've not been able to get into a dentist. I'm at the point where I'm afraid it will give me angina. I am concerned that in waiting to see a doctor, I'm going to have a heart attack.”

Many doctor’s offices, dentists, hospitals and other healthcare providers are now able to open up as the state moves into the “orange” or moderate risk phase. McKee said come Monday a dentist may be able to see them, but it is still up in the air as to what help they will be able to get. 

And even as things go back to normal, or as close to normal as is possible right now, McKee said people with disabilities, chronic illness and other underlying health concerns are still going to have to be cautious about going out because of the risk of contracting the coronavirus. 

“I would hope that some of these physicians would maybe have separate hours kind of like, what Smith's and places like that are doing,” McKee said.

There isn’t a simple answer for how these challenges can be addressed, however, McKee said people who are at a lower risk to the virus can make a difference by being aware of the needs their friends neighbors who are at a higher risk have. McKee also encouraged people to reach out to their legislators and share their concerns. 

“If you have either friends or community members who need you, then do what you can,” McKee said. “I mean, this is not to shame people, but there's just so much more that we can be doing, and that we're not doing.”

Editor's Note: An earlier web version and the on-air version of this story incorrectly said the state was moving to the yellow risk category, not the orange risk category which it is currently in.