In a time of crisis, it truthfully shows how we all take care of our own.
In the midst of a disaster, panic often causes hysteria among a group of individuals. This said disaster is COVID-19, first originated in Wuhan, China and since then has exploded affecting the entire country. The majority of our country works, owns family owned business, comprised of a students trying to achieve an education, caretakers for those who are old and elderly, and of course, an abundance of toilet paper at our disposal. No one in their right mind would have thought a world-wide pandemic would occur at the start of a new decade. Fast forward to present day, the unemployment rate is up to 5.8 million, continuing to increase as the days continue.
As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to grow at an alarming rate in Massachusetts, stay at home advisories have been put into place, a call for all non-essential businesses to shut their doors, and maintaining a 6-foot distancing. While nonessential businesses are closed, college students have been vacated home, airlines have been temporarily shut down, and face masks and gloves are thoroughly encouraged by the CDC. This leaves health care workers and first responders at the front of the line. Doctors, nurses, EMTs, firefighters, paramedics, police officers, and 911 operators are risking their lives, families, and own health to help those affected by COVID-19. However, citizens are urged to stay home, go out only when necessary, and avoid the elderly are able to do so. But for those experiencing homelessness and insecure housing, these safety precautions are not only out of reach, but they are not a viable option to combat COVID-19.
While COVID-19 is burdening everyone, those who are experiencing homelessness are paying a high price. Social Services and Non-Profit organizations are stretched thin, and many shelters have closed due to fear of spreading the disease. Where does that leave the homeless? Essentially, this means that those who do not have appropriate and viable housing are left in unsanitary conditions, potentially infectious others, and no way to combat the disease with no access to health care or sanitary supplies. On April 14th, I attended a virtual city council meeting in Worcester, where Mayor Joseph Petty had shared his same concerns. Forty-nine out of the one-hundred and fourteen residents at a Worcester Adult Emergency Homeless Shelter had tested positive for the coronavirus. In the meeting, Petty had highlighted that the majority of positive cases in the greater Worcester County has come from our homeless population.
Due to the spike in cases, Worcester County had taken quite the initiative to make those on the front of the line’s jobs any easier. City Manager Ed Augustus has announced that a field hospital will be established at the DCU Center that will be accepting homeless citizens. In addition, Worcester Technical High School, now up to capacity, is taking care of those impoverished, along with four other neighboring high schools. Lastly, Worcester Hospitals have agreed to admit homeless citizens who tested positive until new isolation spaces are ready.
Not only is the city providing housing for those who are homeless, but non-essential restaurants who do not have a drive-through are providing meals, water, toilet paper, and clean clothes. In addition, Worcester EMS has assisted with COVID-19 testing and is currently transporting infected homeless citizens to sheltered residents to temporary isolation– all free of charge. The National Guard is also staged at all COVID-19 pop up testing sights to help oversee traffic, bring in supplies, give out face masks and gloves to all, regardless of needing to be tested, and of course, provide a little bit of comedic relief in these trying times.
In the current pandemic, there is a lot of work that needs to be done to aid us all back to health and normalize life again. Luckily, no one is in this alone. Citizens all around the world are doing their part to ensure that we will persevere through these trying times one helping hand at a time. In times of need, our country stands tall on the fact that we are strong regardless of the current political climate, religious standpoints, and socioeconomic status’s.