Coronavirus sparks concerns for some with disabilities who are unable to drive

There is a real concern among many regarding who is getting tested for coronavirus and who isn’t.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says regardless of whether you have been tested, if you are sick, stay home and stay in contact with your health care provider about whether you need to go to the hospital.

But for some of the most vulnerable members of our population, things are more complicated than that.

Stephen Letnes has been legally blind since birth. As a successful film composer, Letnes said he’s always wanted to give back, so he started the Able Artist Foundation, which provides grants, resources and inspiration for so many.

"How could I help other people like me out there, people with disabilities?" Letnes asked.

But right now he feels a bit helpless.

"Transportation has always been a challenge," Letnes said.

Unable to drive, he now has concerns about the novel coronavirus and what would happen if he developed symptoms and needed to get to the hospital.

Full COVID-19 coverage

"Of course, my immediate thoughts are, ‘Oh, I’ll just grab an Uber or Lyft,’ then thought, ‘Oh, don’t want to do that,’" Letnes said.

Letnes doesn’t want to infect anyone giving him a ride, so he’s hoping the state has a plan for helping those who are disabled or unable to drive.

"The point is, ‘How do I protect those around me and how do I reduce the risk to fellow Minnesotans?’" Letnes said.

State officials have a "tight criteria" for who is tested for COVID-19, and supplies aren’t widely available. Letnes said he understands it’s a fluid situation.

"I’m not here to shake my fist at anybody. All I’m here to do is just raise the question so the conversation can begin," Letnes said.

The COVID-19 pandemic is evolving every day, and while nobody knows what’s next, Letnes hopes all ideas are considered to be part of the solution.

"People with disabilities are natural problem-solvers, so there are plenty of Minnesotans out there who want to help," Letnes said. "I’m sure we can find a solution and figure this out for everybody."

The Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Council on Disability do not have a formal plan in place but are working together on the issue, saying they’ve received multiple calls about this topic.

They suggest common guidelines, such as reaching out to your health care provider before going to the doctor and calling 911 if it’s urgent.