Tim's Desk - December 2020

Tim's Desk - December 2020

What can you say about the weather? One day it’s in the 50s and the next day the highs are in the 30s. I know this will not last and we will soon be seeing those temperatures stay cold and get to below zero with several inches of snow—all coming in one day and lasting for what will seem like eternity. 

But the weather isn’t the news. COVID-19 is, especially during this dial-back period, between November 20 and December 18, when COVID cases are at record numbers and the hospitals are full. You can get free COVID tests at a number of locations. You can also get free at-home tests from the State of Minnesota. All the details are available at the Department of Health’s COVID-19 Test at Home website. It is free to Minnesota residents. If you have insurance you’ll need to fill out some insurance information but it will still be free to you. This is a saliva test so there’s no probes in your nostrils. For frequently asked questions about the test check out Vault Health’s “No Cost Covid Testing for All Minnesotans” website. It’s worth checking out and knowing if you need to use this service. You don’t have to leave your house and put your health at risk. 

We all need to stay very diligent about maintaining social distance, even isolation, and wear masks when around any other people. Because the hospitals are getting overrun and cannot take care of all the patients they have with COVID, it will be twice as hard for a person with a disability to be hospitalized with your extra needs. And of course, most of us with disabilities would have a real hard time fighting off the coronavirus if we did have to be hospitalized. 

I am going to contact my doctor to make sure he knows that I want to be first in line when the vaccine is available, after hospital staff and caregivers in nursing homes are taken care of. I do think the risk of taking the vaccine is far and away less risky than contracting COVID. In my case, with respiratory problems, it would put me at an extremely high risk if I contract the virus in a healthcare environment where care is competitive and staffing is difficult. 

Nurses and doctors are telling their stories in newspapers and social media, and it’s hard to see how tough this pandemic is for them. They are literally putting their lives on the line every day. But when they don’t have any relief and are burned out, it’s no wonder that hospitals and clinics are finding it hard to find enough medical staff. 

We need to make home care a real career with a livable wage and good benefits to draw more people into this essential workforce.

And for those of us who rely on home care, we know it’s hard enough to staff in regular times, without the hospitals and other institutional care facilities having such shortages. I don’t know why there haven’t been any substantial increase in wages for caregivers in all environments. We could only hope that the next stimulus package will increase salaries instead of increasing unemployment benefits for lower-paid vital workers. They have to be compensated for the risk they are taking by putting themselves in harm’s way.

This crisis is underscoring the fact that these workers have been underpaid for many years. We’ve been arguing that we need to make home care a real career with a livable wage and good benefits to draw more people into this essential workforce. Although we are celebrating these workers now, will there be people willing to jump in and fill the staff shortage after the pandemic is over? We need to have healthcare programs overflowing with students at all levels. But while the medical field has always been a place where people were proud to work, I am truly afraid that won’t be the case in the years to come. 

Have a good month, stay masked, keep your distance, avoid crowds, stay healthy. And somehow: enjoy the holidays! 

And speaking of years to come, our next issue will be a month from now, in January 2021. As you’re finishing up the year, one of the things you might be doing is planning for taxes and charitable donations. The Access Press Board of Directors asked me to remind you that donations to Access Press are deductible because we are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. But there’s also a special opportunity for those of you who may have IRAs, need to make required minimum distributions, and would like to share a special gift with Access Press

“Whether itemizing or claiming the standard deduction, individuals age 70 1⁄2 and older may make up to $100,000 per year in distributions from their collective IRAs ‘directly’ to qualifying public charities tax-free for 2020, even though RMDs (required minimum distributions) from IRAs are waived for 2020 under the CARES Act. No RMDs are required for 2020 but they resume in 2021.” 

This means that a charitable minimum distribution to Access Press could be tax-free. I hope before the end of the year you will consider donating to Access Press to keep our disability news resource widely available. Thanks to all of you who have made donations to Access Press in 2020; your gifts are truly appreciated. 

Have a good month, stay masked, keep your distance, avoid crowds, stay healthy. And somehow: enjoy the holidays!