The Arc’s COVID-19 Updates: May 18, 2020 | Today And As We Return

This past week, we witnessed the staying power of the COVID-19 virus in our group home settings which is why the return to the “new normal” is such a challenge.

Despite the clear impact of this virus in people’s lives, a TV news report quoted a female demonstrator on Cape Cod, calling COVID-19 a “fake virus.” Is this news?

As reported on Friday, Governor Baker reminded us, “Wearing masks and, wherever possible, employees working remotely will be two key strategies to maintaining progress in the fight against COVID-19 as the state begins a gradual process of reviving public activity.”

As we begin our return, many are still suffering with the virus, not least of all in our group settings where staff are caring for people who are virus positive. Staff not only have to be supporters and caregivers, but advocates. Many of those served may not be able to speak to all their symptoms and it’s at those times, staff and family who know those they support have to read between the lines and advocate for further intervention.

We appreciate the hardworking staff who are our heroes, along with health care providers and first responders.

Thank you for wearing all the hats you need to. We are counting on you.

As We Return

As the “crisis” phase of this period ebbs, we can’t forget that many of us have gone beyond reasonable bounds in order to be responsive: family members, staff, persons with disabilities, volunteers – we haven’t been able to take enough breaks, experienced isolation and sometimes deprivation, became ill or lost people dear to us. We may not even realize our exhaustion or the pain we feel. We may be mourning or block out our grief – no time, too much to do…

Fatigue and stress take its toll on the human body and mind. This is the time for us to consider those who have been on the front lines. My colleagues at Widening the Circle/Pathways to Friendship raised this in their last meeting. How can we be responsive to our residential partners? So many of them have been working non-stop, trying to prevent illness from spreading and caring for those who are sick.

We need to address the experiences of anxiety, stress, burnout, and yes, trauma during this period. Our lived experience is different than what we know from our past and we have no way to fully anticipate our future.

The better we all recognize the need for healing and time to recover, the better our transition will be. The needs of staff, families, and individuals will vary.

Let’s support each other adapt in the face of this adversity. We can “bounce back” if we allow the space to openly discuss what has happened and what we need looking forward. Experts in this area point out these elements: supportive relationships, encouraging communication, an atmosphere to share strong feelings and emotions, and the use of problem-solving skills.

Over the next few weeks, while planning begins to for a phased “return,” we will need to support each other to rebuild our personal and community capacities. We can only do this together.

Postscript on the Federal Front

On Friday night, the House of Representatives passed a $3 trillion stimulus package, but Senate leaders called it dead on arrival, once again reflecting the rift between parties governing our country. States and municipalities face significant revenue gaps due to the COVID-19 response. In late April, Senate leader Mitch McConnell stated, “OK, let’s have all the states declare bankruptcy — that’s the way to bring the national economy back” as he dismissed talk of an additional stimulus package.

Last week, the chair of the Federal Reserve, Jerome H. Powell, called for further significant investment, stating, “Additional fiscal support could be costly but worth it if it helps avoid long-term economic damage and leaves us with a stronger recovery.” Disability services require economic stability at the state level.

The House’s Heroes Bill includes several additional funding fixes for MassHealth and disability services; two major ones slated for July 1 are:

  • 14% hike in global federal medical reimbursement (FMAP) for states
  • 10% more for home and community-based services

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