OPINION: State is rising to the COVID-19 challenge

OPINION: State is rising to the COVID-19 challenge

By Mary Daugherty Abrams

For the better part of this year, COVID-19 has deeply impacted every aspect of our lives. As state senator of the 13th District and co-chair of the Public Health Committee, I have worked to lessen the unprecedented effects of this virus on our community and state. During this time, I've met with healthcare workers, agencies and other stakeholders to help provide essential workers with the personal protective equipment they need each and every day. I've connected people in our community affected by the virus with important state and local resources, worked to expand COVID-19 testing and ensured the path we take is based in scientific research and analysis. I have, and will, remain steadfast in my commitment to keep all of us safe. 

As we head into flu season, I know our work is only beginning. However, Connecticut is poised to safely move forward with one of the lowest COVID-19 infection rates in the country. This is a credit to the efforts of people in our state following the recommendations of the medical community. As Public Health co-chair, it has been my responsibility to lead in prioritizing the health and safety of our state during these trying times. I have heard directly from residents in our communities of the many hardships brought on, or exacerbated, by this virus. In an effort to alleviate and eliminate barriers some may have faced in pursuit of care, this summer I was proud to support legislation concerning telehealth services. 

Telehealth was previously a vital tool for patients and healthcare providers, but with the effects of COVID-19, it is, and will be for the foreseeable future, a necessity to ensure all have the access to care they require. The legislation extends the temporary waiver of customary restrictions on online medical healthcare service and allows telehealth by audio-only, instead of requiring video. Telehealth also greatly benefits patients of Medicaid and in-network providers by expanding the types of providers who may deliver services through telehealth. The legislation also allows for telehealth services from additional licensed professions. This has literally been a life-saver for patients, and during these times of high-stress and anxiety, telehealth access to behavioral health services is of heightened importance to many across our state.

A crucial aspect of maintaining the health of Connecticut residents is doing all we can to make sure our economy is healthy as well. We know that financial stability brings peace of mind and, for many, work provides purpose. This is why I am proud to say we successfully pushed for extensions to the Paycheck Protection Program. This extension gave small businesses more time to use the loans provided as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act passed by Congress. The health of consumers is also imperative to the success and sustainability of businesses in our state. The implementation of COVID-19 safety  measures and outdoor seating at restaurants allowed us to reopen and provide Connecticut residents with the assurance they could shop, go to the gym, or dine safely and experience a level of normalcy amidst the pandemic. The health of our state relies heavily on opportunities for individuals to work, play and feel safe. We have made great strides in prioritizing these important aspects of the public’s health. 

I am proud of what we, as a state, accomplished to push back against COVID-19. However, I am keenly aware this virus has dramatically altered and shifted our lives in deep and profound ways. One of those ways has been voting. In an election year, waiting at the polls to cast a ballot may now give some residents pause over fear of contracting the virus. In an effort to make voting easy, accessible and safe in the state of Connecticut, I supported legislation allowing individuals to vote by mail. It is crucial to our democracy that no barriers lay in the path of any registered voter who wishes to cast a ballot. After this moment passes, we must continue to do all we can to increase the access and ease of voting in Connecticut.

There is still much to be done, improved upon and reimagined as we continue to lessen the impacts of this virus. However, it is clear these important interventions have placed our state in a position to safely and gradually continue to reopen and to successfully tackle the months ahead. As co-chair of the Public Health Committee, I remain dedicated to hearing your concerns, addressing your needs and seeing our state through this global pandemic. 

Democrat Mary Daugherty Abrams is seeking reelection as state senator of the 13th Senate District. 

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