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Community Prepares for Long-Term Effects of COVID-19

Patti Singer
pattisinger@minorityreporter.net

Corinda Crossdale, Deputy County Executive for Health and Human Services. Provided by Monroe County

The immediate concern is to slow to the spread of COVID-19.

The implications of novel coronavirus likely will last years, and they won’t just be on health.

The Rochester Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative, working with Monroe County, has a three-phase plan to address short- and long-term needs.

Corinda Crossdale, Deputy County Executive for Health and Human Services, talked about RMAPI’s role in helping the community cope with COVID-19 now and in the next two years. She also talked about the response for marginalized communities.

The interview has been edited for space and clarity.

How is the county getting the message to stay home, practice social distancing, and be vigilant about handwashing to all segments of the community?

We are working with RMAPI and community organizations in making sure the message is getting out to the minority community. We’re also looking at the way we’re communicating, to make sure it reaches everybody, and that’s not only American Sign Language but translating documents into Spanish and getting it out in different languages that are common in Monroe County.

Churches and barbershops and hair salons have been places where people can learn about health and social services. With those places closed, what venues are you using?

That’s where we’re working through RMAPI on ways of getting the information out. … We’re seeing a lot of congregation in some of our neighborhoods, which leads us to believe that perhaps some of the messaging isn’t reaching some of these individuals as readily as we would like, or perhaps we need to change the way we provide the message.

What is RMAPI specifically doing?

During the current phase, they are strategizing based on community feedback. They have learned that a lot of the concerns mirror that of the rest of the community, how to stimulate their children in absence of school, mental health support, fear of physical health, ensuring employers adhere to mandates to protect employees.

On the back end, there is fear on the impact social distancing will have on financial needs, what will they do after quarantine when bills pile up, need for supplemental income due to lost wages, fear of losing their homes or being evicted.

(On March 21, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren issued executive orders that prevent utilities from shutting off service to an occupied dwelling. On March 16, the state suspended evictions for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis.)

RMAPI will be taking the lead on working with community leaders and advocates in this sector to address the three phases identified. There is no one answer when addressing complex needs and concerns. That is why RMAPI will continue to garner input from the community to ensure communication and needs are being addressed in a culturally responsible manner.

Talking about economic impact, what is being done to help people whose jobs have been affected?

I hear from some of our community members who are challenged by that. The federal government and state government have made allowances to help ease some of the pressure. Receiving unemployment is quicker. We’ve also seen state and federal relaxation in SNAP benefits (food stamps).

What’s the focus of the county efforts?

The vast majority of our focus is on physical health and meeting basic needs. Absolutely food would be a top priority. It looks different for folks. Just having SNAP available isn’t enough. Making sure that individuals who are sick or shut in … how are we making sure that is getting delivered … making sure suppliers and those preparing the meals have the resources they need. … We’ve been in partnership with United Way. They are working with us with regard to volunteers for Meals on Wheels. Particularly with the new guidance that came out with vulnerable individuals being asked not to go into the community. We have to think about another resource that we can tap into for services such as Meals on Wheels.

What is the biggest challenge?

The pace and the constant change. Things are moving so quickly, sometimes we have to plan where we thought we’d have a day or two, we have to have a solid plan before the end of the day. Sometimes we don’t finish till 10 or 11 o’clock at night. That plan for vulnerable people has to be put in place. It’s not just government that’s doing planning. The whole community pitches in and does planning around this.