Adult day services feeling left behind as state COVID-19 restrictions lift

Adult day services in Minnesota are wondering when their COVID-19 restrictions will loosen. 

As the rest of Minnesota starts to open up, adult day services say they have been forced to live in the past. 

"I’m just so disheartened that people with disabilities are put on the back burner and are thought of last," said Colene Verdick.

Verdick’s 24-year-old daughter was enrolled at Options Incorporated in Big Lake full time until the pandemic hit. Now, her hours have been cut as the provider tries to work around COVID-19 restrictions.

"I think it’s frustrating to me when all this time is spent figuring out how we can do the State Fair and with the disabled population it’s like, ‘We’ll get to you when we get to you,’" said Brenda Geldert, the executive director of Options, Inc. 

The last time the state loosened restrictions on adult day programs was February. Even then, they are still required to keep clients six feet apart, operate in cohorts of 10 or less and try to keep them facing the same direction while they work. 

To accommodate as many people as they can under those guidelines, Geldert and her team have cut hours to allow for two shifts per day. Some have been put on wait lists or on a virtual program, with the number of people they serve in person cut in half. 

"As the state fully reopens, we’re still where we’re at," said Geldert.

Clients like Mark Nelson say he misses the social aspect of the program, which has largely been cut due to social distancing.

"I like working here because I love the people," said Nelson. "I miss not being able to get a high five…I can’t leave my desk."

The Department of Human Services told FOX 9 it is reviewing the Governor’s latest guidance, but has yet to change anything. 

"There hasn’t been really big outbreaks in day services, so the science and the data really isn’t there to back up why we haven’t been allowed to move forward," said Geldert.