Summer 2021 | Volume 102, Number 3
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit more than a year ago, Keri Rodrigues' kids, like millions of others, did their best to learn through a computer screen. And until this February, that was the best arrangement for them. But as time went on, she could see that her third-grade son was suffering in virtual public school. Every added "day of Zoom in isolation, staring at the same wall," was worsening his mental health, until "my fear of the virus became less than my fear of isolation," she said. "My son was dreading his life, at 9 years old."
MARY M. DOYLE ROCHE, PhD
The ground seems to be shifting under our feet. As of spring 2021, three vaccines for COVID-19 have been approved for emergency use. Teachers, other Kindergarten-12 education professionals and some students became eligible to receive the vaccines. We have better research data about the transmission of the virus in schools and about serious illness among very young people and adolescents. At the same time, infections continue and variant strains of the virus present new challenges. Public health restrictions are being eased in some states even as we hear cautionary tales from other countries facing renewed lockdowns.
MARY PAUL, MA, RHIA and ALLI McNEIL, MSN, CNM
Maternal and infant health outcomes are at a crisis level in the United States. Despite advances in medicine and the presence of vast health care resources, women in the U.S. are more likely to die from complications from pregnancy or childbirth than women in similarly developed nations.
ANN E. GUAY
On March 15, 2020, Gov. Charlie Baker ordered all public and private schools in Massachusetts to close for three weeks due to COVID-19. Parents of school-agechildren had to learn to juggle careers with remote learning, Zoom calls and no child care. College students were back home in their old rooms and not happy about it. Facebook pages were flooded with posts from parents struggling to get through the day. Parents were running on fumes, worried about the long-term impact of COVID-19 on their children's education and mental health. Sports seasons were cancelled, and graduations postponed. Three weeks turned into 13 months, and while many schools have reopened in some capacity, life is certainly not back to normal.
DEBI PASLEY MS, RN
I became a nurse because I wanted to serve patients, and I became a nurse leader because I wanted to serve nurses. But never has a situation presented me more opportunities to do both than the COVID-19 pandemic.
LAURA RICHTER, MDiv
When people asked me how I was doing during the pandemic, I found myself frequently turning to the famous first line of Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities
. With each articulation I offered examples, illustrating how apt the statement was for my family.
SR. LINDA YANKOSKI, CSFN, EdD
"We are in this storm together, but we're all in different boats." A member of my staff quoted those words from a Vatican document in a recent meeting, and they have remained in my mind ever since. These words eloquently express why it's so vital to let empathy guide our decisions as we navigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic — and they are an especially poignant reminder for organizations like Holy Family Institute that manage social services, education and other essential resources for families facing difficult situations. Our goal since the beginning of the pandemic — and since our founding more than 100 years ago — has been to help families stay afloat, weather the storm and come out better equipped to deal with whatever harsh weather may come next.
EMILY STEVENS, MBA, MSW, LCSW-BACS and COLETTA C. BARRETT, RN, FACHE
COVID-19 exacted a toll not just on our physical health but our financial well-being as well. In some cases, the pain hit close to home, leaving health care workers doubly stressed. Some faced the fear of contracting the virus at work while unable to pay bills at home. To stay afloat, they had little option but to turn to short-term, high-interest loans. But through multiple expansions of an existing microlending fund and participation in an innovative advance paycheck program, Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System (FMOLHS) has helped some members of its workforce gain–or regain–financial footing.
ANN M. GARRIDO, DMin
My cousin Liz and I chat by phone about her 10-year-old son Rique Ray's recent drawing. "He calls it 'The Death and Destruction of My Favorite Characters,'" she explains. We both look at the cartoonish figures, each in their own separate boxes getting squeezed into smaller and smaller spaces until colors — their true colors? — burst out. "Geez," she says, "I hope these represent Disney characters and not, well …" We both laugh and seem to be thinking the same thing: "Not us."
ALEXANDER GARZA, MD
The most opportunistic biological weapon generally is what makes a pathogen also difficult to combat in the field. This includes easy dissemination, effective transmission, difficulty in detection and no vaccine or effective therapy. From a global perspective, if this is combined with an ineffective public health response, or a weak government, it becomes a catastrophe."
ALISAHAH COLE, MD, and NICHOLAS STINE, MD
The issue of social determinants of health has become a trending topic in health care, and rightly so. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has stated that achieving health equity and driving improvements for all patients require further investment in tools and approaches to address these determinants and close care gaps. Social factors — including housing, transportation, education and social isolation — affect communities of color in particular and negatively impact access to care and health outcomes.
JARED H. BRYSON, DMin
On March 27, 2020, in a place where thousands usually gather to catch a glimpse and hear words of hope, the solitary figure of Pope Francis stood in St. Peter's Square. Grappling with pandemic conditions, he offered prayer and supplications to God on behalf of humanity in an extraordinary blessing. Millions watched and joined in prayer, all virtually.