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As COVID-19 mandates end, how do older adults and people with disabilities feel about it?

Two years — and several COVID-19 surges — have passed since the World Health Organization declared a pandemic. Now life seems to be returning to normal — for some.

There are two populations that were hit hard by the virus: older adults and people living with disabilities. How are those groups feeling about the changes?

Chris Rodriguez is the president and CEO of Ability 360, a disability organization in Phoenix.

"So, I think there's certainly an apprehension amongst the disability community in general, about the laxing of these measures," he said.

Because people with disabilities were disproportionately hurt by COVID-19 for myriad reasons. They may have certain medical conditions or may live in a congregate settings, and, like older adults, they were also isolated. 

"But as you can imagine, obviously, like anybody else, I don't think anybody enjoys wearing a mask everywhere and living a lifestyle that they're not accustomed to," said Rodriguez.

He says some feel comfortable connecting in person while others want to remain virtual. 

Lizzie Kazan is with the Area Agency on Aging in Maricopa County. She says senior centers are reopening and meals are again being served in person. Kazan also says older adults are opening their doors to in-home services. 

"So, with that behavior change, we think that they're we're moving in a more positive direction of creating a new normal," she said.

Despite a return to a  new normal, older adults, like people with disabilities, were also harmed by not only the virus itself, but the closures which led to more isolation. Meanwhile in long term care, COVID-19  swept through facilities

Nearly  155,000 nursing home residents and staff have died from COVID-19. 

Senior field correspondent Kathy Ritchie has 20 years of experience reporting and writing stories for national and local media outlets — nearly a decade of it has been spent in public media.