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Elder Care: One year into COVID
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Elder Care: One year into COVID

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Keystone Elder Law logo 2016

It has been a year since the first two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania were announced by Gov. Tom Wolf. This led to his order to close all “non-essential” businesses two weeks later.

What have we learned?

Even though individuals’ political perspectives and roles in the American economy have caused chasmic differences in opinion, most of us would agree that the last 12 months have been a patchwork of horrific events and heroic behavior. Heroes include front-line medical workers, small business owners who have preserved jobs, and others who respectfully and sacrificially follow COVID safety protocols in their daily lives.

Who is not sickened to reflect on the COVID-caused deaths, often in forced isolation, of friends, family and clients? The placement of COVID-positive patients in unprepared nursing homes sacrificed some seniors as early casualties of the COVID war. The 500,000 Americans who have died from COVID are more than were killed in all wars during the 20th and 21st centuries.

My age makes me a 1A priority for a COVID vaccine, but, despite exhausting every option, I have not been able to get an appointment within our region. I remain hopeful that one of many leads will soon result in my getting an appointment. Penn State Hershey, UPMC and a couple of local churches are now creating a vaccination waiting list for persons with 1A priority.

Many who have been vaccinated either work in health care or got an inside tip of where to get a scarce appointment. Pennsylvania’s politically correct list of “essential workers” is too broad to be an effective filter and has been ignored without penalty.

Bloomberg reports that as of March 1, 245 million COVID vaccinations have been given in America. Pennsylvania ranks sixth among states in the total number of vaccinations given and the number of vaccinations given per day. However, Pennsylvania ranks third from last in the percentage of usage of vaccinations that have been supplied. That signals some lack of preparedness.

Gov. Wolf finally announced his intention to involve the National Guard to improve future vaccine distribution. So far, he deserves poor grades for the logistics of releasing the vaccine for injection into the arms of residents of Pennsylvania. It is comparably easy for me to be a Monday-morning quarterback; and although I would not want the job of managing vaccine distribution, he campaigned for it.

I have been waiting at the front of the line. Do you have a distant memory of arriving early to be near the front of the line to enter an entertainment venue? As the crowd size grew, was it hard to remain polite and patient as others maneuvered ahead of you? Having assurance of eventually getting a seat is not consoling when you watch someone butt ahead of you in line.

I am frustrated and becoming tempted to take a tone of “I am mad as Hell and I am not going to take this anymore!” That was Howard Beale’s outcry as the fictional television anchor in the movie “Network.” Beale’s rants were his response to a variety of unresolved societal issues. Without revealing the end of that movie, Beale’s entertaining rants did not solve any problems.

The ethics and idealism of being an Eagle Scout slowed me from joining the social protest movement 50 years ago. As a patriotic teenager, I supported the 1970 Cambodian invasion and did not protest the Kent State killings. But the 1971 publication of the “Pentagon Papers” evidenced the betrayal of my trust by President Richard Nixon; and the 1972 reporting of the Watergate break-in and coverup pushed me over the edge to become an angry, demonstrating protester.

While the confinement of COVID restrictions and the ineffective management of the vaccine distribution are exceedingly frustrating, as a Pennsylvania resident I do not yet feel the same sense of malfeasance and betrayal by elected officials now as I did 50 years ago when I was driven to protest presidential corruption.

Former President Donald Trump deserves credit for pushing the rapid development of multiple vaccines, but his post-election priorities were a distraction from the war on COVID. Some historians will overlook Trump’s considerable successes and will tarnish his legacy because of deaths they will identify as preventable and attributable to his poor leadership on mask wearing, social distancing and coordination of vaccine distribution.

What feels like slow social recovery from COVID today, despite a V-shaped economic recovery, cannot be blamed on Trump. President Joe Biden is fumbling, unable to articulate clear policy about returning children to public schools, as he has been caught straddling the barbed-wire fence between the conflicting desires of parents and teachers’ unions.

News about COVID is on a trend about declining infections and hospitalizations. It is time for us to put the politics aside and take personal responsibility and action. Front-line health care workers have told us that COVID-prevention protocols really do work. The Center of Disease Control (CDC) urges that even those who have been vaccinated or recovered from COVID should continue with the protocols of social distancing, hand washing and wearing of a mask.

As spring-like temperatures will soon naturally invite more outdoor activity, those who are vaccinated should not be restricted from exercising their right to choose to attend a large outdoor event, whether it is a baseball game or a concert. As we expose ourselves to a reopening economy, we should practice “safe rec” by following COVID protocols whenever possible.

Small businesses, and especially restaurants and small entertainment venues, beg for a chance to reopen at a practical level that will preserve jobs, while enabling their patrons to follow COVID protocols. We must soon allow them to do so. Remember to over-tip deserving wait staff.

By the time May arrives, if I am still waiting for a vaccination appointment as a priority 1A candidate, if Gov. Wolf excessively restricts outdoor events and business re-openings, or if evidence emerges that Wolf is guilty of Cuomo-like distortions about the truth of COVID in long-term care facilities, I hope I will not become as mad as Howard Beale.

Learn more about the article’s author, and other community education opportunities, at www.keystoneelderlaw.com. Check out the book, “Long Term Care Guide: Essential Tools for Solving the Elder Care Puzzle,” at the Whistlestop Bookshop or Amazon, and see Keystone’s free directory of services for older adults at www.mypeaceguide.com. Keystone Elder Law has offices in Mechanicsburg and Carlisle. Call 717-697-3223 for a free telephone consultation.

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