On any given day, it’s easy to feel burdened by the weight of the global pandemic, anxious about the uncertainties of COVID-19, and restricted by the limitations it spawned. It’s understandable if you find yourself in a constant cycle of frustration and disappointment.
In a time like this one, it becomes essential to celebrate the moments of hope and joy that break through grim milestones and the feelings of isolation or grief.
Good news can recharge us on our exhausting days and accelerate our optimism. Amidst the challenges that remain pressing and real, we have received good news, and it bears repeating.
In February, we got the news of a $1,000 bonus for all state employees earning under $80,000. In that announcement, Governor Brian P. Kemp, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, and House Speaker David Ralston all referenced the tireless labor of our dedicated state employees throughout this pandemic. They noted those who deliver essential services to Georgia’s most vulnerable citizens and acknowledged the grueling hours and sacrifices of our team members and state government partners.
It is wonderful to see this level of recognition of public servants. We are grateful to the legislative leaders who worked alongside the Governor’s team to make this reward a reality. While our words of gratitude to our staff are necessary and meaningful, this time, that gratitude was reinforced with this tangible bonus. More detail is forthcoming from HR this week on the distribution of the bonuses to eligible team members, I hope that each of you around the state knows that your work—your sacrifice over the last 12 months—is seen and valued, not just by DBHDD leadership but by elected officials at the highest level in our state.
The increasing availability of COVID-19 vaccines brings additional cause for elation.
Across our five-state hospitals, staff who desired to receive the vaccine were among the first in our state to receive their doses, and patient vaccinations began as well. Gov. Kemp and his team have again made certain the DBHDD hospital staff is treated as a priority population, and we are grateful for that support.
To our staff who elected to take the vaccine, we applaud you! We believe this is the right step to stop the spread of COVID19 and ensure the well-being of your colleagues and the people we serve. I also want to commend our staff at Georgia Regional Hospital in Atlanta. Under the leadership of Dr. Charles Li, this hospital achieved a 50% vaccine penetration rate--the highest in our system. I believe more staff will see the positive results for staff who have now received both doses and our numbers will continue to climb. I should note that our hospitals remain well equipped with BiNax tests and PPE, and demonstrate high rates of PPE compliance. Let’s never forget those early days of the pandemic when tests and PPE were not so readily available. It’s important to observe this progress and note how far we’ve traveled in our co-existence with COVID.
Beginning this week, adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and their caregivers are now eligible for the vaccine. As we know individuals living with intellectual and developmental disabilities are at higher risk of exposure and mortality, this expansion of access to the vaccine is incredibly welcome news.
DBHDD will work closely with our partners at the Department of Public Health, consulting with them to facilitate ready access and special accommodations for the individuals we serve.
I know each of us may have days where the challenges and losses of the pandemic can still feel overwhelming. This month, we will mark the one-year anniversary of the transition to remote work for many “office-based” roles. None of us anticipated a year of compromised living in those early days. But we have learned that we are far more creative and resilient than we might have imagined.
As we now face COVID variants with continued vigilance and compliance with recommended measures, let’s lift up our progress. Let’s also embrace the healing effects of hope. I am grateful we are in this together.