COVID-19: Leo’s Letter: Ending the Pandemic and Its Impact

We are all affected by the continuing pandemic.

In the disability community, it has slowed the ability of those leaving high school to get adult services and, for many who need support, they continue their lives without adequate assistance.

Health and Human Services (EOHHS) Secretary Marylou Sudders has reported that there are 900 vaccine locations in the Commonwealth, so access is not a barrier, and our state reports that 71% of citizens have received at least one vaccine dose.

Despite much encouragement and action (hosting vaccination sites, etc.) by agencies across the state, there continue to be staff in helping roles who have not been vaccinated. By October 10, employees at nursing homes and the two state Soldiers’ Hospitals will require vaccination unless they meet one of two exemptions.

Given the workforce shortages in our and other helping fields, any future mandates should be universal. We also should see more resources invested in more personalized approaches as in this example in Watts, where a door-to-door strategy is working. Continuing outreach efforts by agencies with additional resources (community health workers or others?) assigned to agencies to encourage staff in the helping fields can increase our vaccination numbers.

In the meantime, booster shots for persons who have compromised health conditions are critical. The Department of Public Health (DPH) announced the availability of these shots this week. We’ll be reaching out to ask the state to modestly expand the list.

  • On August 19, President Biden announced that he is ordering the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to require nursing homes to have vaccinated staff for them to be able to participate in Medicare and Medicaid and receive funding from the federal programs. It’s the first time that such a requirement has been extended beyond federal government employees.
  • This chart below, via the Boston Globe, details the small percentages of those vaccinated getting sick relative to the unvaccinated population (“How do you convince an unvaccinated person? A hostage negotiator, a veteran UN peacekeeper, and the Girl Scout who sold the most cookies last year have advice,” Boston Globe, August 17, 2021).

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