(The Center Square) – Arizona's human service providers are in the trenches as they continue to serve some of the state's most vulnerable populations.
"The general nature of the health and human sector is to provide much needed, and sometimes lifesaving services in a face to face manner. COVID-19 puts new, and hopefully only temporary, parameters around what can be done," Candy Espino, president and CEO of the Arizona Council of Human Service Providers, told The Center Square. "The decisions that are being made are based on safety for all."
Multiple senior centers in the area are taking protective measures to best protect their residents – limiting visitors and screening them for illness before they enter the community, isolating residents who show signs of illness, canceling excursions to public gathering places.
Gov. Doug Ducey declared a public health emergency last week. He also announced protective measures, including waving licenses for some medical facilities and streamlining the process for facilities to get needed medical equipment. All K-12 schools have closed and universities have transitioned to online classes. The message from many leaders is the same – wash your hands, cover your cough or sneeze and stay home when sick.
As more organizations reduce hours, transition to remote work or close completely, questions arise about how to care for those employees who find their hours reduced or cut altogether.
"There is a lot of discussion going on regarding the fiscal impact and human element of this pandemic as it is related to employment," Espino said. "The best outcome would be to keep people employed, as these positions are greatly needed and will be more so needed once we come out on the other side of this pandemic. We are working closely with our member agencies and seeking state and federal guidance, as well as emergency funding opportunities."
Human service providers in Arizona can find clear guidance and safety recommendations from the CDC.
In Arizona, the Cactus League Spring Training season has been canceled. Some polling locations, especially those in senior centers, have been closed.