(CNN)A New York nonprofit that helps the developmentally disabled says it is having trouble getting people tested and obtaining protective equipment, even though 11 people in its programs have coronavirus.
New York nonprofit for developmentally disabled struggling for help with coronavirus
"We're really struggling," Libby Traynor, the executive director of AABR, told CNN. "It keeps getting more dire by the minute."
The organization based in Queens is one of the largest service providers for individuals with developmental disabilities in the New York region. AABR runs 23 group homes that house about 200 people and day programs, which include job training and schooling.
Last Friday, the organization shut down its day programs after one person tested positive, however the group homes continue to operate since residents live there.
Many residents have profound developmental disabilities and need assistance with dressing, eating and bathing, and can't understand precautions such as social distancing.
Since some residents are nonverbal, the staff must look for signs of the virus and rely on twice-daily temperature checks to evaluate their conditions.
"We've taken individuals to hospitals where they were turned away because they were not sick enough," Traynor explained.
Vans heading to drive through testing centers have also been turned away.
Local health officials explained their procedures, saying not everyone is getting tested.
"It is critical that laboratory testing be prioritized for hospitalized patients," the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene wrote in a directive to medical providers on Friday. "There is no reason to test asymptomatic persons or mild-to-moderately ill persons who are not hospitalized."
"That doesn't make a lot of sense when you are talking about congregant care populations," Traynor said.
AABR's supply of personal protective equipment, such as gloves, gowns and masks is dwindling, and a new $150,000 order won't arrive until next week. An appeal to local authorities for supplies to bridge the gap was denied.
The "low point" came when the New York City Office of Emergency Management told AABR that they were "below the priority level to receive PPE," Traynor said.
"The gears of the government are moving too slowly for us," she said.
"We must prioritize ensuring the availability of protective equipment for health care workers at this time," health department spokesman Patrick Gallahue told CNN. "The City's health care system is facing a severe shortage of masks, gloves, and other key supplies that are needed to protect health care workers treating critically ill patients in our hospitals. Local hospitals may run out of critical supplies within weeks at the current rate."
Hospitals would like to send six of the AABR residents being treated for coronavirus back to the group homes, but Traynor says they can't take them without enough personal protective equipment. Additionally, they are waiting for additional test results.
The organization is struggling with how to survive financially, especially since it can't afford the equipment it had to order.
"We are a nonprofit, we don't have that kind of money. We have no margin," Traynor said.
The group is also losing the revenue from their day programs that usually helps cover expenses.
Jeffrey Meaney, an AABR board member with severely autistic son in one of the organization's group homes, told CNN he is worried the non-profit will be bankrupt within weeks if it doesn't get help soon.