Families angry that relatives in NY group homes remain isolated

Laura Tobia's brother, Billy, has severe cerebral palsy and lives in a group home. COVID-19 restrictions are continuing to prevent him from participating in any outside programs and services he critically needs.

"I'm scratching my head trying to figure out why there are theaters opening," Tobia said. "There are fairs that are about to happen and festivals and sporting events and music events and my brother has been sitting at home."

Susan Havko's son, Kellen, has autism and is nonverbal. Although he is fully vaccinated, she still cannot visit him at the group home where he lives. 

"The emotional impact of this is pretty great cause you don't know how your child is doing," Havko said. "You have to take somebody else's word for it."

For months, several New York state lawmakers and families have been urging the state Department of Health to update its outdated COVID restrictions to match and reflect the CDC's guidelines. Families say their loved ones are isolated.

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"Every time I ask, every time I question I get, 'We're reviewing it, we're reviewing it,'" Assemblywoman Melissa Miller, a Republican from Nassau County, said. "I think they've had enough time to figure it out for our families!"

"I want full access to my son and I want him to have access to everything that every New Yorker is allowed," Havko said.

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David Guerrera's 36-year-old son Joey has cerebral palsy and is nonverbal.

"It's like they're being completely treated differently just because they're disabled," Guerrera said.

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FOX 5 NY contacted the state's Health Department and the state's Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, or OPWDD, for comment.

"OPWDD is currently reviewing our quarantine requirements for group homes, which are consistent with NYS Department of Health issued guidelines," OPWDD spokesperson Jennifer O'Sullivan said.

However, neither the OPWDD nor the Health Department answered why they aren't updating the COVID guidelines for group homes to reflect the CDC's current guidelines.