Father: Take virus to heart

Special-needs man tests positive

AUSTINTOWN — The parent of a resident at Gateways To Better Living is asking the public to use caution during the pandemic to protect not only themselves, but also those who cannot make decisions for themselves after receiving news his son contracted COVID-19.

“My concern is not just for my son, but the nation as a whole. Everyone should take it serious,” said Leon Stennis.

On Tuesday, Stennis received a call from Gateways, stating that his 49-year-old special-needs son tested positive for COVID-19, and is now in isolation.

Several calls to Gateways To Better Living were not returned.

Stennis, of Youngstown, said his son is at the Gateways To Better Living in Austintown, and needs full-time care.

His son’s only symptom was a “low-level fever,” ranging between 98.6 and 100 degrees, Stennis said.

If his son shows more symptoms, Stennis said the facility will transport him to St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital.

When Stennis asked personnel at Gateways how many others have tested positive — both residents and employees — information was not disclosed because of HIPPA laws, he said.

Stennis is allowed to call to check on his son at any time, he said.

Upon hearing the news of his son’s diagnosis, Stennis said he felt “tremendous stress” and a sense of hurt, as his son has been at the home for a long time.

“It’s painful because he’s my son and I’m his guardian,” Stennis said.

Still, the reality of his son contracting the virus was on Stennis’ mind for the last several months, he said, noting his son already has a compromised immune system.

Stennis wants people to know it is a serious disease that shouldn’t be taken lightly, as it has claimed lives around the world since its discovery.

“My concern would be not just for my son, but the nation as a whole,” Stennis said, adding that people should wear masks to prevent transmission of the disease, along with practicing social distancing.

As the country opens back up from being shut down for months in response to the pandemic, Stennis said everyone should keep in mind that health is just as important as the economic portion of the impact.

“We have to maintain the economic situation, but at the same time we have to be just as concerned about the health situation but not just for ourselves, but for the country,” he said.

Gateways To Better Living offers programs for special needs individuals to live with independence. Campuses include Youngstown, Niles, Austintown and community homes.



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