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Persons experiencing addiction may be at very high risk of infectious disease like COVID-19 due to high rates of smoking, recent imprisonment, conditions like HIV/AIDS, and high-risk behaviors (Ezzati et al. 2002; Farhoudian, et al. 2020). During the COVID-19 pandemic, most courts have shuttered, and treatment center admissions have halted, yet the opioid crisis rages on. Addiction intersects with material hardship, trauma, broken institutions, and human frailty in a multidimensional web of disadvantage (Desmond and Western 2018)—a process illustrated by COVID-19.
The unequal impacts of COVID-19 demonstrate an urgent need for sociological interrogations of disability as a social category and axis of inequality commensurate with race, class, and gender and intersecting with them. While disability can be a marker of health status, it is also a unique social category with particular politics structuring disabled people’s lives and reflecting interlocking systems of oppression. We provide examples of how the pandemic reveals disability is a societally mediated category of existence that is (de)valued in particular ways.