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For people with Down syndrome, family members, caregivers and professionals.

Work Recommendations for People with Down Syndrome [COVID-19]

March 2020 | Brian Chicoine, MD - Medical Director, Adult Down Syndrome Center

ARCHIVED: This resource has been archived. More recent resources are available in the COVID-19 section of our Resource Library.

UPDATED JULY 2020: Additional information related to this topic can be found in our resource "Returning to School or Work in Fall 2020."

UPDATED JUNE 2020: Additional information related to this topic can be found in our resource "Going to Public Places During the COVID-19 Pandemic." 

The information below was shared on March 23, 2020. For the most up-to-date information, please see the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at this link.

We have continued to receive questions about people with Down syndrome working during the COVID-19 pandemic. What are our thoughts on people with Down syndrome going to work? Have our thoughts changed since our post on March 16? 

In Illinois, Governor Pritzker issued a "stay at home" order (Executive Order #10) that is in place until at least April 7. If the order needs to be extended past April 7, Governor Pritzker will inform Illinois residents prior to that date. Other states have issued similar orders. Under these orders, non-essential businesses and operations have closed and/or have asked employees to work from home. Essential businesses and operations including healthcare, grocery stores, gas stations, banks, and restaurants that offer carry out or delivery remain open. 

What about people with Down syndrome who work at one of these essential businesses such as restaurants and grocery stores? Is it safe for them to continue to go to work? 

Our recommendation

We have decided to take a cautious and conservative approach. 

We recommend that all individuals with Down syndrome consider not going to work in the community or other out-of-home work settings until at least May 1, 2020.

We will monitor the recommendations of the CDC as well as the recommendations and executive orders of the federal and Illinois state governments. We may make additional recommendations as we learn more. This week, we will prepare a personalized letter for patients we see at the Center that states our recommendation. For individuals who are not patients at the Center, please consider sharing this article with your healthcare providers and discuss their recommendations. 

What led us to this recommendation? 

There is not complete agreement on what should be recommended. There is a lot we do not know about COVID-19, particularly the effect of COVID-19 on people with Down syndrome. According to the CDC, individuals who have known risk factors such as diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease are at a greater risk for more serious complications from COVID-19. It is not clear if otherwise healthy people with Down syndrome are affected differently than otherwise health people without Down syndrome; however, some information seems to indicate that people with Down syndrome might be at greater risk for more serious complications from COVID-19. 

One example is a previous pandemic. We found an article that describes how people with Down syndrome were more seriously affected by the H1N1 pandemic in Mexico in 2009. We understand that this article is about influenza and not COVID-19; however, it is an example of how people with Down syndrome were affected by a pandemic. This influenced our decision to choose a cautious approach.

Another reason we chose a cautious approach is that some people with Down syndrome can be more susceptible to infections. They may also have greater complications from infections. More information can be found in this article from the National Institutes of Health. 

Lastly, some people with Down syndrome have difficulty with following self-care recommendations such as: 

  • Good handwashing
  • Avoiding touching your face
  • Avoiding touching potentially contaminated objects and surfaces 
  • Practicing social distancing

We know these are important factors in slowing and ultimately ending the pandemic. 

Stay healthy! 

We appreciate that these recommendations and orders are challenging to follow. However, our ultimate goal is to support individuals with Down syndrome and their families in staying healthy and safe during this pandemic. 


To see all our resources on COVID-19, please visit this link.

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Please note: The information on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to serve as a substitute for a medical, psychiatric, mental health, or behavioral evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment plan by a qualified professional. We recommend you review the educational material with your health providers regarding the specifics of your health care needs.