Protect Yourself and Your Family from Coronavirus (COVID-19)


Infectious disease experts say most cases of COVID-19 are mild to moderate, like the common cold. But people with developmental disabilities and the people who care for them can be more at risk. That is why it is especially important to take extra precautions both to stay well and stop the spread of the virus. COVID-19 can be more severe in older adults and people with chronic health conditions.

Most of the early reported cases had contact with seafood and live animal markets, suggesting an animal source of the outbreak. However, most cases are now likely to be spread from person-to-person by droplets when coughing. Since this virus is very new, health authorities continue to carefully watch how this virus spreads.

There are simple steps you can take to help protect yourself and your family. For more information on what you can do to help stop the spread, visit our COVID-19 in Plain Language page linked below.  

COVID-19 in Plain Language 


COVID-19 may cause mild to severe respiratory symptoms, like:

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Trouble breathing, and
  • Pneumonia

CDC believes at this time that symptoms may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 days after exposure to the virus.


Everyone should:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially before you eat.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Keep a distance of at least 6 feet to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
  • Cover your cough and sneezes with a tissue and discard it in a closed container.
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects.

For people who are sick:

Stay home.

  • If you have a fever, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicines, such as acetaminophen.
  • Keep sick household members away from others. If you have a separate room that is best.
  • Use soap and water, a bleach and water solution, or EPA-approved household products. You can make your own cleanser with a mixture of 1 cup of liquid unscented chlorine bleach in 5 gallons of water.

Avoid sharing personal items.
Anyone at high risk for complications should talk to their healthcare provider for more information.

Make a Plan

Create plans for school, work, and home.

  • Make a list of people and organizations that can help if you become sick. Consider family, friends, neighbors, carpool drivers, health care providers, teachers, employers, the local public health department, healthcare services, and other resources like mental health services.
  • Join a neighborhood website or social media page to stay connected to neighbors, information, and resources.
  • Plan ways to care for family members at risk for serious complications, such as older people and people with chronic health conditions.


Plan as if it is a Winter Storm

  • There is no need to buy large quantities of supplies. But it's a good idea to pick up a few extra items each time you go to the market or pharmacy. That way, you're prepared and can avoid crowds.
  • Pick up some extra foods like canned goods, dry pasta, and peanut butter.
  • Have soap, hand sanitizer, tissues, fever reducers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen on hand.

Plan for Changes to Your Daily Schedule

At School:

  • Make plans to care for your children if schools are closed temporarily. Just like you would for snow days.
  • Make plans for alternate after-school care in case they are closed temporarily.

At Work:

  • Ask to work from home or take leave if you or someone in your household gets sick, or if your child's school is temporarily closed.
  • Are you feeling stressed about coronavirus? Here are some tips on how to manage anxiety in an anxiety-provoking situation.

Stay Informed

  • Stay connected on your state and local health department's social media pages and websites for timely and accurate COVID-19 information.
  • Questions? Call the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Hotline: 1-888-364-3065
  • If you live alone and become sick, you may need to ask for help. If you have a chronic disease and live alone, ask your friends, family, and health care providers to check on you.
  • If you decide to attend a public event, practice good health habits.
    • Try to keep at least 6 feet of distance between you and others at the event.
    • Avoid close contact, such as shaking hands, hugging, and kissing.
    • Wash hands often or use a hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
    • Avoid surfaces that are touched often, such as doorknobs and handrails.

Mental Health Resources


New York State is partnering with Headspace to provide free mindfulness, meditation, and mental health resources to all New Yorkers. 

Headspace Website

NYS Emotional Support Hotline


Office of Mental Health website

Crisis Prevention and Response Resources

If you feel unsafe at home

New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence 
Crisis Services Through NYSTART
  • OPWDD offers crisis services for those who receive our services and have been found to be eligible for this service. 

    Crisis Service


Parent and Caregiver Resources

Parent Network of Western New York
  • The Parent Network of WNY offers education and resources for families of individuals with special needs (birth through adulthood) and for professionals. They also have a  page of resources dedicated to coping with the challenges of  COVID-19.
    Parent Network of Western New York Website
Parent to Parent of New York State
  • Parent to parent support offers the parent of a person with a developmental disability or special health care needs the opportunity to be connected one-to-one with another parent who knows first-hand about the feelings and realities that come with having a family member with a disability or chronic illness.
    Parent to Parent of New York State Website




Learning Resources

The New York State Parent Teacher Association
University of Rochester/Golisano Children's Hospital
COVID-19 Toolkit for People with Intellectual and Developmental Disability 
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) created a COVID-19 toolkit with communication resources explaining in plain language how people with IDD and caregivers can protect themselves from the virus. 
    COVID-19 Toolkit

Tips for Healthcare Providers & Clinical Staff