If we follow the advice from the Center for Disease Control, as well as Governor Tom Wolf and Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Health, Dr. Rachel Levine, we will be able lessen the potential effects of COVID-19.
While their directives and recommendations may seem challenging – social distancing, working remotely, limiting travel, frequent hand washing, and avoiding crowds over 10 people – we must all work together to limit the spread of the virus while we await the development of a safe and well-tested vaccine.
From a recent historical perspective, this moment calls for the same national unity that took place after the 9/11 attacks when we felt tremendous anxiety about what our futures held. However, our national mood was lifted by the courage, dedication, and sacrifice of our nation’s first responders, who humbly committed themselves to protect and serve. At that moment we celebrated and gained hope from firefighters, police, emergency medical technicians and others.
We declared them as heroes among us.
Today, there are similar professionals rising to the current challenge. On the front lines of this pandemic are health care workers, nurses, doctors, health aides, and Direct Support Professionals who cannot work from home and put themselves at risk so those who are in need can receive care.
We have built a community system that depends upon a large workforce of professionals to ensure that people with intellectual disabilities and autism continue to have much-needed caregivers, some requiring 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week supports.
We have populations who are at higher risk because of age or underlying health conditions dependent upon the services of direct care and support workers for feeding, bathing, and social supports.
As the Founder and President/CEO of an agency that supports hundreds of people with intellectual disabilities and autism living across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I continue to be in awe of the dedication of our staff who remain committed through this crisis. Their professionalism and the care they exhibit in executing their jobs and the added steps they take to prevent possible transmission is amazing. Despite the irony of these workers having been underpaid by the state for decades, they keep reminding us of their respect for and devotion to the people we support.
When we make it through this crisis, and we will with the support of these individuals, may we find it in our hearts to remember their contributions to the safety of loved ones and treat them with the respect and dignity they so richly deserve.
These are the heroes of 2020 who live among us.
Read this piece in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Altoona Mirror.