COVID-19 Guidance for Our Spinal Cord Injury Community

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our lives, communities and so much more, the Spinal Cord Injury Research Program is doing what we can to share resources and drive relief efforts with the SCI community.

Generally, COVID-19 is a respiratory (breathing) illness caused by a coronavirus. The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to the flu: they include fever, cough (dry or wet), and shortness of breath which may appear 2-14 days after exposure.

It is important to practice proper health and hygiene, social distancing and to stay home as much as possible to reduce risk!  The following information and resources are specific to COVID-19 response and Spinal Cord Injury/Disability.  This is a growing list and will be updated periodically as new information comes in.

Prevention of the Coronavirus

  •  Wear a mask
  • Practice physical distancing (staying 6 feet away from others), avoid large groups, and stay home when possible. If you do stay home, it is important to know you are not alone and can access services or connect with your local SCI organization via phone, online or by other means
  • Call your doctor before you visit to let them know if you are unwell and have other health concerns
  • Wash your hands regularly with warm soap and water for 20-30 seconds
  • Clean all surfaces regularly that you touch every day including your phone, joystick and wheelchair armrests, tray, push rims…
  • Keep 30 days of medical supplies (catheters and dressing supplies) and medication on hand
  • Prepare your Emergency Kit

Attendant Services Issues

  • Consider asking your attendants if they do not live with you to wear a mask while in your home especially when they are providing physical assistance and are within six feet of you
  • Send attendants home who are not well
  • Ask attendants to wash their hands when they arrive and before they provide any assistance.
  • Be sure your attendants and you wash your hands after all assistance
  • Have a back-up plan if your attendant does not come to work or is sick. Plan ahead by taking THESE steps
  • Read CareAcademy’s COVID-19 Guide for direct caregivers

If You Are Sick, or Think You Might Have COVID-19

  • Isolate yourself at home if you develop respiratory symptoms
  • If you are experiencing any shortness of breath (especially persons with high level injuries) you should go to the hospital
  • Call your local public health authority for advice before going to the hospital. Please see Mount Sinai updates for patients: COVID-19 Facts and Resources
  • Read this information from the CDC on COVID-19 and its Symptoms
  • If you have a spinal cord injury and use a ventilator, c-pap, or cough assist device, speak to your health care provider or respiratory therapist regarding what precautions you, your family and attendants should take in your home
  • Clean your equipment and replace filters regularly as per your device manual
  • Ensure you have an adequate supply of filters and tubing

Vaccines

  • On August 23, 2021  the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine has been known as the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, and will now be marketed as Comirnaty (koe-mir’-na-tee), for the prevention of COVID-19 disease in individuals 16 years of age and older.
  • As of Tuesday, April 6, all residents of New York State ages 16 and over are eligible for COVID-19 vaccination. COVID-19 vaccination are free and is provided regardless of immigration status
  • Mount Sinai are now accepting vaccine appointments from any eligible member of the public. If you are 12 or over and live in the United States, you can register for a vaccine appointment here.
  • Eligible New York State residents should check the New York State and New York City vaccine websites for information about where to get vaccinated.
  • 877-VAX-4NYC (877-829-4692) vaccine hotline. The City’s hotline can be used to make or change an appointment at a City-run site.
  • Pharmacies: Numerous pharmacies throughout NYC offer COVID-19 vaccine appointments. Available appointments at many NYC pharmacies are shown at vaccinefinder.nyc.gov. Patients can also inquire at their local pharmacy to see if vaccination is being offered.
  • Blocks of appointments have been reserved at City-run vaccination sites for people 65 years and older and for people who live in certain ZIP codes. These appointments can be booked online (vax4nyc.nyc.gov) or by calling 877-VAX-4NYC.
  • Free transportation to and from vaccination sites is available for people 65 years and older and people with disabilities. People can arrange for transportation when booking their appointment using the 877-VAX-4NYC hotline or by calling the hotline after making a booking. Transportation is available to and from any vaccination site in NYC, not just those run by the City.
  • Homebound Vaccination Program:  New York City is also offering in-home vaccinations for all residents 12 and over, as well as mobile vaccination vans. Interest in the program can be expressed via a form on vax4nyc.nyc.gov or by calling 877-VAX-4NYC.
  • See the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities website for answers to frequently asked questions the disability community may have about vaccination access.

Booster Shots

The following people are now eligible for a booster shot of the Pfizer vaccine, if they received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine at least six months ago:

  • People 65 or older
  • People 18 to 64 and either have an underlying medical condition or a higher risk of COVID-19 exposure due to their job (for example, health care workers) or where they live or frequently visit (for example, a homeless shelter)
  • People living in a nursing home or other long-term care facility

You will only be able to get a Pfizer booster shot if you received a second Pfizer dose at least six months ago. There are no exceptions to this restriction. This shot is intended to help many people boost their immunity from the initial vaccination series, which may have decreased over time.

Recommendation for Pfizer COVID-19 Booster Shots

Third Doses for People with Weakened Immune System

Separate from booster shots, people who are moderately to severely immunocompromised (meaning they have a weakened immune system) are eligible for a third dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, as part of their initial vaccination series. They can get a third dose 28 days after their second shot.

This shot is intended to help a small number of people who may not have had sufficient immunity from the first two shots. People who receive this shot may also be eligible to later receive a booster shot.

Vaccine Safety

  • There are a lot of myths on the internet about COVID-19 vaccines. Mount Sinai is working with a company called NewsGuard to provide the most accurate information. If you’ve heard something that sounds questionable and want to know if it’s true or not, you can look it up in NewsGuard’s report on the top COVID-19 vaccine myths.

Vaccination Proof for Indoor Activities

  • Starting August 17, people 12 and older will be required to show proof they have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine authorized for emergency use by the FDA or WHO for:
    • Indoor dining
      • Includes restaurants, catering halls, event spaces, hotel banquet rooms, bars, nightclubs, cafeterias, grocery stores with indoor dining, coffee shops and fast food or quick service with indoor dining
    • Indoor fitness
      • Includes gyms, fitness centers, fitness classes, pools, indoor studios and dance studios
    • Indoor entertainment
      • Includes movie theaters, music and concert venues, museums and galleries, aquariums and zoos, professional sports arenas, indoor stadiums, convention centers, exhibition halls, performing arts theaters, bowling alleys, arcades, pool and billiard halls, recreational game centers, adult entertainment and indoor play areas

    This new requirement — called the Key to NYC — includes bars, fitness gyms, movie and stage theatres, museums and other indoor venues. Staff at these locations are also required to be vaccinated.

Proof of Vaccination

Proof of vaccination may include:

Stay Informed

  • Check the advice from your local governmental health authority every 24-48 hours. You can also text COVID to 692692 to receive that latest NYC updates.

Take home messages about COVID-19 in people with SCI

  • People with SCI are not at a higher risk of getting infected with the COVID-19 virus.
  • The early symptoms people with SCI experience can often be confused with UTI.
  • Cough and fever may not be as severe as compared to people who have COVID but do not have
    SCI.
  • The severity of symptoms and disease course of COVID-19 in people with SCI, so far, is not as bad
    as initially expected
  • Age and underlying secondary conditions may still be risk factors, more information is needed.
  • It is still very important to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19 by washing hands, wearing
    a mask, and social distancing.
    *These take home messages are based on the published, peer-reviewed evidence as of November 24, 2020.

Our Resources

Spinal Cord Injury Research Center Weekly Virtual Events: Our support groups are now virtual! 

List of Adaptive and Inclusive Home Workouts: We have identified the following adaptive fitness resources available online that you can access to help you stay active and healthy at home!

Nutrition and SCI during COVID-19 Resources: Our Complete nutrition guide during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Mental Health and SCI Resources: Our Complete guide to your mental health during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Infographics for food delivery and other resources: Putrino Lab created COVID19  inclusive instructions for ordering food to neurorehabilitation activities that can be done from home.

Fact Sheets

COVID-19 and Spinal Cord Injury

COVID-19: Spinal Cord Injury Specifics

Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) for SCI Fact Sheet

The Spread of COVID-19 & SCI Prevention

COVID-19 Guidance for People Living with Spinal Cord Injury

Information on COVID-19 for people with spinal cord injury

The Truth About COVID-19 Vaccines

Wheelchair and Assistive Technology Users: PRECAUTIONS for COVID-19

Hand Hygiene for People with Spinal Cord Injuries

COVID-19 Guide for Caregivers

Navigating COVID-19 SCI Urology Guide

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): How to Self-Monitor

Self-isolation: Guide for Caregivers, Household Members and Close Contacts

What You Can Do If You Are at Increased Risk for Severe Illness from COVID-19

COVID-19 Digital Mental Health Resources

Preparing for Disasters during COVID-19

Videos

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and spinal cord injury / disease and disabilities: Glen House, MD discusses the Coronavirsus (COVID-19) and the unique issues that need to be considered for individuals with a spinal cord injury/disease and other functional disabilities.

Discussing COVID-19 and Spinal Cord Injury: Northwest Regional Spinal Cord Injury System video presentation discusses issues for people with SCI and a diagnosis of COVID-19, the pros and cons of in-person routine care, and strategies for minimizing exposure from caregivers.

Ask an Expert Series: Spinal Cord Injuries and COVID-19 This series offers expert advice from clinicians, researchers and professionals regarding SCI and disability during COVID-19.

COVID Vaccines and people with SCI: I AM featured Medical Professionals with expertise in Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI) on COVID Vaccines and people with SCI sharing personal vaccine stories. 

Ask Nurse Linda: COVID-19: Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation Ask a Nurse discussion on COVID-19 and SCI.

Respiratory Care (COVID-19): SCI Everything videocast discusses respiratory care for people with spinal cord injury during the current COVID-19 pandemic

SCIRE Community COVID-19 Video Series: The SCIRE project has a series of COVID-19 and SCI related video’s including medical concerns, working from home, mental health and numerous topics for  for Individuals with an SCI.

Webinar

Providing Resources for People with SCI During the Pandemic: Mount Sinai SCI was pleased to host “Providing Resources for People with SCI During the Pandemic” webinar to address unique issues that need to be considered for individuals with a spinal cord injuries such as extra hygiene precautions and emergency preparedness during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

 

 

SCI: Moving Forward A Response toCovid-19/Coronavirus: In response to the widespread effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the SCI community, the North American Spinal Cord Injury Consortium (NASCIC) created a 10-part webinar series where experts presented on the topics that matter most to people living with a spinal cord injury at this time..

Podcast

SCI Everything: This podcast addresses topics related to spinal cord injury rehabilitation care, from hospital to living in the community. video cast can also be heard on YouTube: SCI Everything

Additional Resources

FAQs About COVID-19 and SCI/D: Dr. Thomas Bryce, medical director of our Spinal Cord Injury Program answers frequently asked questions about COVID-19 and SCI for New Mobility Magazine.

The Coronavirus and Spinal Cord InjuryTo better understand how a spinal cord injury increases your risk, the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation has put together a great resource for you to read through.

COVID-19 Resources for People with DisabilitiesThe following information has been gathered specifically to inform people with disabilities on the resources available to the population during NYC’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD): If you are a person with a disability with questions or concerns regarding NYC’s COVID-19 response you can reach out to this office.

Disability and Covid-19: Covid-19 guide for People with Disabilities and Older Adults

Center for Disability Rights: Action Steps for Attendant Service Users in Response to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Medicare Coronavirus Update: Medicare expands coverage for telemedicine to help seniors and people with health problems stay home. 

MTA Coronavirus Updates: In response to COVID-19: Starting Thursday March 19, Access-A-Ride will no longer be scheduling shared rides. You’ll still be able to travel with a personal care attendant or guest.

COVID-19 Disability-Specific CoverageNew Mobility’s Disability-Specific Recommendations for COVID-19.

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19): What do Older Adults and People with Disabilities Need to Know?

Preventing COVID-19: Hand Hygiene for People with Spinal Cord InjuryThis advice is meant to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Certain supplies may be limited but you can still protect yourself and prevent infection using the cleaning products you have; soap and water is always better than nothing.

​Coronavirus Vaccine FAQ: Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation FAQ’s on Vaccine’s for the Spinal Cord Injury Community.

Wheelchairs Users should take these precautions for the COVID-19 Virus: Wheelchair user precautions you can take to stay healthy and safe!

Precautions for Wheelchair and Assistive Technology UsersPrecautions for COVID-19

NYC Free Meals: Three free meals will now be available daily for ALL New Yorkers in more than 400 Meal Hubs across the 5 boroughs. To find a location near you or text “NYC FOOD” to 877-877

Stores offering Custom Hours to High Risk Population: As a result of COVID-19 response, some stores have created dedicated hours for seniors, people with disabilities and other vulnerable populations. Visit link for  a frequently updated list.

COVID-19 Nutrition and Shopping Guide: New Mobility guide to nutrition and shopping during the Covid-19 crisis.

ACL: Administration for Community Living has COVID-19 information specific for people with disabilities and older adults.

US Dept of Veterans AffairsNovel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Information

COVID-19 Coronavirus and Veterans: Paralyzed Veterans of America COVID-19 News & Resources 

COVID-19 Information: By and For People with Disabilities

Insurance and COVID-19 What to Know: Insurance providers are adapting coverage and services in response to the public health crisis created by the spread of COVID-19.

Invisible Hands Deliver: A free delivering service for those who do not feel safe leaving their homes during the COVID-19. They currently are making deliveries to Queens, Brooklyn, Jersey City & Riverdale.

Pets & Service AnimalsHow to Prepare your Pet or Service Animal for Emergencies

Note and Disclaimer

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This guidance was created by experts in the SCI Community on April 9, 2020. This document is based on the best available evidence at the time of release. We can’t guarantee that the guidance is up to date or current as the pandemic is changing daily.