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Governor signs law protecting individuals with disabilities during a pandemic in honor of Glendale man

Glendale residents Maria and Fred D'Amico. Fred, who was disabled, died of COVID-19 alone when hospitalized in 2020. (Courtesy of Senator Joseph Addabbo, Jr.'s Office)

Gov. Kathy Hochul signed Fred’s Law on Dec. 21, which changes hospital protocol to allow people with disabilities a support person for their entire hospitalization, even during a pandemic. 

The bill (S.1035A) was introduced by Queens state Senator Joseph Addabbo and Assembly member Stacey Pheffer Amato to protect individuals with disabilities who are unable to describe medical conditions for themselves. Even during an emergency situation like the COVID-19 pandemic, when hospital protocols don’t allow any visitors, people with disabilities would still have the right to an essential support person present. 

Fred’s Law was named after Fred D’Amico, a man with autism from Glendale who contracted COVID-19 and died alone in the hospital in March of 2020. Medical staff would not allow his family, who were his caretakers, to be with him due to COVID restrictions. 

The D’Amico family has fought tirelessly to get this bill passed in order to prevent this from happening to anyone else. 

“This bill is very important, not only to me in memory of my son, but for everybody in the hospital that needs support,” Fred’s mother Maria D’Amico said. “Now we have a voice, and now we have to continue talking to people to know this bill passed so nobody dies alone in the hospital with a disability.”

Maria plans to continue her advocacy and spread the word about this law to make sure individuals with disabilities are protected. She also said she wants her son to be remembered as a “happy young man with the heart of a little boy.”

“When my son needed me the most, I couldn’t be there for him,” Maria said. “Every time you see my son he was very happy and the last time I saw my son he was very scared in the hospital by the window.”

Addabbo was moved by the D’Amico’s story and wanted to join their effort to make sure this didn’t happen to other families.

“The D’Amico family has fought hard to make sure that no other family goes through the pain they felt when they lost Fred because no one was allowed to be with him when he entered the hospital in 2020,” Addabbo said. “This law is a major step forward in protecting our citizens with disabilities if they need to enter a hospital by allowing an essential support person to accompany them for the duration of their stay.”

Hochul signed Fred’s Law as part of a package of legislation to help individuals with disabilities. 

“People with disabilities are a crucial part of our New York family and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect,” Hochul said. “The bills I’m signing into law today will ensure people with disabilities are supported in health care, employment and beyond. Working together, we’ll make sure our recovery from the pandemic includes every single New Yorker.”

Connie Altamirano, community activist and family friend of the D’Amicos, said it’s important to note that this fight is not over. Now, they will work to ensure everyone knows about this law. 

“The next step is to educate the public,” Altamirano said. “We need to help communicate to the people their rights; a lot of disabled people don’t know about their rights. This is a huge step forward in protecting the rights of our disabled community who are too often overlooked and neglected in public policy. With this bill, Fred’s parents have been given a sense of closure in the knowledge that his legacy goes on, and his memory will not be forgotten.”

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