1. Opinion

In the age of coronavirus, let’s take care of our most vulnerable

Here’s what readers are saying in Sunday’s letters to the editor.
A man wearing a face mask walks past the gates of the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington, Vt., on March 12, 2020. [CHARLES KRUPA  |  AP]
A man wearing a face mask walks past the gates of the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington, Vt., on March 12, 2020. [CHARLES KRUPA | AP]

Helping the most vulnerable


The most vulnerable people affected by COVID-19 are the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, the population Neighborly serves with Meals on Wheels, senior dining, adult day centers and transportation services. Our clients are age 60 to 100 years old.

Due to the vulnerability of most of our clients, we continue to re-emphasize infection control policies and procedures all year long with our staff, volunteers and, most importantly, our clients. Plans are in place to ensure our seniors will be fed, no matter the obstacles. Our nutrition services provide 2,000 meals to homebound seniors as well as clients at Senior Cafes all over Pinellas County each weekday.

Meals on Wheels America has asked the Department of Health and Human Services to provide “supplemental federal funding be provided and maintained to senior nutrition programs — until no longer needed — to replenish and expand the supply of shelf-stable meals, frozen meals and/or other nutrition services that are being or have already been provided in communities.” This may or may not come through so we must look to our Neighborly community to help ensure that our vulnerable seniors will continue to get their meals.

We hope for the best and plan for the worst, a hungry and isolated senior. Pinellas County residents can make a difference by keeping an eye on their elderly neighbors, volunteering to deliver Meals on Wheels, and financially supporting Neighborly Care Network.

David Lomaka, Clearwater

The writer is executive director of Neighborly, Meals on Wheels.

The true ideological purity

Biden can bridge the divide | Editorial, March 8

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden departs after speaking about the coronavirus March 12, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. [MATT ROURKE | AP]

As a longtime reader and subscriber, I find the Times’ editorial recommendations to be an invaluable tool for making tough political decisions. While I understand and largely agree with the editorial board’s support for former Vice President Joe Biden, I respectfully disagree with the underlying premise that Biden does not invoke ideological purity.

Biden represents an ideological purity that is so strong and so omnipresent in our culture that it appears invisible to the naked eye. I am a graduate teaching assistant in the Department of Communication at the University of South Florida, and on a near-daily basis, my students are confronted with the harsh realities of this ideology.

They choose majors that do not interest them because it would be “impossible to get a job” if they pursued their passions in the arts, humanities or theoretical sciences. They put off savings, starting families and purchasing homes because they cannot afford to do so without incurring massive student-loan debt.

Biden and other centrists tell us how much we cannot have. This ideology says we cannot, for instance, afford Medicare for All or universal higher education. This ideology tells us that we need to make tough compromises to have anything nice in life.

Biden would be a substantial improvement over our current administration. However, Sen. Bernie Sanders represents not ideological purity, but a fundamentally different ideology altogether. He argues for what is possible in government in an age where mapping out impossibilities and making political sacrifices is the dominant ideology.

His commitment to an ideology of possibility would restore America’s potential for making the planet a better place, especially for those who have historically existed on the margins of our society, like many of my students at USF. Sanders departs from the ideological purity that constrains what we think to be possible in American politics.

Michael A. McDowell II, St. Petersburg

Thanks for a great Times

Moving millions, leaving mayhem | March 1

A 2015 photo of a Garda World truck after a crash in Kansas. A 2020 Times investigation found that Garda had a pattern of dangerous crashes. [Kansas Highway Patrol]

I recently moved here from Chicago. Not because of the weather, but because I married someone who loves the ocean.

I read two papers in Chicago, the Daily Herald and the Wall Street Journal. I was hesitant to subscribe to the Tampa Bay Times because, frankly, I thought it would be too small town.

I can honestly say that the reporting of this newspaper is stellar! The Sunday front-page investigative reports are so impressive that I have forwarded them on to friends who only read internet news snippets.

I am still adjusting to the slower pace of living that exists here. The Tampa Bay Times has helped me by giving the same energy and thoroughness of a big city newspaper. Thank you.

Suzy Turner, Indian Shores

We’re all in this together


Judie Shape, center, who has tested positive for the coronavirus, blows a kiss to her son-in-law, Michael Spencer, left, as Shape's daughter, Lori Spencer, right, looks on, Wednesday, March 11, 2020, as they visit on the phone and look at each other through a window at the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Wash., near Seattle. In-person visits are not allowed at the nursing home. [TED S. WARREN | AP]

We know those at highest risk for serious illness from COVID-19 are either over 70 and/or have underlying health issues. The same is true for other infectious diseases. From my experience those who live in congregant living facilities (nursing homes, rehab centers, etc.) are at significant additional risk.

Several years ago, my own mother contracted the flu at a rehab facility while recovering from surgery. It quickly developed into pneumonia. She was readmitted to the hospital where she was treated and released back to a nursing home that was ill equipped to care for her infection. At her request we ultimately called hospice and took her home to die. It was a confusing, terrifying and heartbreaking time. These facilities are inherently vulnerable to contagion and unable to care for seriously ill patients.

In nursing homes, there are generally two people to each room; typically only one doctor is on call for the entire facility; understaffing is common; most caregivers are low-paid CMAs with no health insurance and little if any paid sick leave. For them, staying home with an illness is financially disastrous.

The most fortunate residents have family members who supplement care and advocate for them and often for their roommates. Barring those family members is a double-edged sword. While it may help limit transmission, it leaves residents without that extra level of care during this crisis.

We are all in this together. Until we have universal health care and paid sick leave, people will die unnecessarily. Having great health insurance doesn’t protect us from contagion as long as our caregivers and coworkers are uninsured and coming to work sick.

Diane Love, St. Petersburg

To our Readers,
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