Discrimination and Bias in State Triage Protocols Toward Populations With Intellectual Disabilities During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Disaster Med Public Health Prep. 2022 Oct;16(5):1772-1774. doi: 10.1017/dmp.2021.81. Epub 2021 Mar 25.


Individuals with intellectual disabilities face discrimination on a daily basis. The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has highlighted the systemic ableism that is embedded within American culture, particularly through health care bias and discrimination. In turn, this creates further marginalization during diagnosis, triage, and treatment of the novel coronavirus. Multiple states have filed complaints against state triage protocols that suggest an abled life is more worthy than a life with a disability. Although many of these protocols have been updated and replaced, generalized triage statements fail to address health care bias that is embedded within the American system. In addition to the existing solutions, proposed solutions to addressing health care bias include integrating social workers into the emergency management process and the overall disaster management field. To combat bias and ableism across the health care system, a social justice perspective that highlights discrimination, inequalities, and inequities in overall individual care must be adopted.

Keywords: COVID-19; disabilities; discrimination; social work; triage.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Disability*
  • Pandemics
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Triage / methods
  • United States / epidemiology