COVID-19, WILL IT EVER END?
As we navigate a hybrid 2021 annual conference and renewed mask mandates in Dane County, the thought has come to my mind-when will this pandemic end?
It is very frustrating to me that the main reason the Delta variant is raging throughout our country, requiring renewed masking and limiting what we can do, is because so many people in this country and state have here-to-date declined to be vaccinated. The polarization on masking and vaccines between the Democratic and Republican parties in this country, as well as the American long-time value of individualism and personal freedom, is literally sickening, and in many cases, killing people.
The concept of individualism and personal freedom can be an important value, as long as it doesn’t impact negatively on the health and lives of others. Efforts to stop mask or vaccine mandates can clearly lead to increases in Covid-19 infections and even deaths.
Currently State Senator Andre Jacque is fighting for his life on a ventilator. He was a big opponent of vaccine requirements and mask mandates. During the week of August 10th , he testified at two separate legislative hearings. I also testified at those hearings and spoke with him briefly about one of the bills. (He was the lead sponsor on a tele-health bill we supported).I wore a mask the entire time I was at the Capitol and I am sure glad I did so. Senator Jacque did not, and later that week was diagnosed with Covid-19.His wife is now publicly encouraging everyone to trust the medical profession and get vaccinated.
There has been an increase in vaccinations in our country recently, likely the result of so many unvaccinated people getting very sick, and in some cases dying. It is so sad that it takes people dying to break through irrational fears about the vaccination and ideological opposition to public health measures.
At the Wisconsin Chapter, we are doing our best to navigate this continuing pandemic. Kristina, our interns and I are back to wearing masks at staff meetings and when we get up from our desk. We are implementing strict Covid-19 requirements at our annual conference including requirements that all attendees and all Wilderness staff wear masks at all times, except when eating or drinking. We will have hand sanitizers and extra masks for all participants. To the extent possible, we will be social distancing people in sessions. We have organized a hybrid conference so attendees can choose either to attend in person or virtually.
As noted elsewhere in this newsletter, our advocacy for continued reimbursement of tele-mental health, including phone therapy past the public health emergency, continues on a state and national level. Tele-mental health, including phone therapy, became universal during this Covid-19 pandemic.Through this process, practitioners learned that there are many clients who are only able to access psychotherapy through tele-mental health, particularly in rural parts of the state. Without tele-mental health, clients face many barriers, including extreme anxiety about going to an office to receive therapy, lack of transportation, lack of child care, lack of nearby providers, concerns about confidentiality if one’s car is seen at a therapy office, and language and cultural barriers. Practitioners have also seen their no-show rate plummet with the use of tele-mental health.
Many practitioners have expressed tremendous concern that insurance companies will decide that “Covid is over” and then either eliminate reimbursement for tele-mental health or reduce reimbursement for this type of practice.
I appreciate everything all of you have done to navigate through this pandemic to continue to provide services to your clients. Thanks for your flexibility, persistence, learning and courage over this past 18 months. The challenges you have faced in serving your clients will only continue with a likely surge of children returning to in-person school needing mental health support.
None of us can know what the future will bring. We certainly did not think we would still be dealing with Covid-19, 18 months after our lockdown in March 2020.We can only manage our own lives in a safe manner that protects ourselves, our loved ones, colleagues, clients and neighbors and hope that over time, our state, country and world gets on top of this pandemic with everyone’s cooperation and support.
Be safe and healthy everyone and carry on your wonderful work!