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Editor’s Note: Life in a Pandemic and Beyond
By Lee DeOrio
Social Work Today
Vol. 20 No. 4 P. 4

To say that society has changed over the past six months would be a monumental understatement. The pandemic has reshaped countless lives, most of them for the worse. Piled on top of those woes is the murder of George Floyd, a tragedy that sent the nation reeling while revealing yet another example of an underbelly filled with hate and disregard for the disenfranchised.

Through it all, social workers have continued their valuable contributions, albeit through slightly different means, whether it’s working from home or venturing out wearing gear they could never have imagined donning. They’re addressing so many concerns that it’s difficult to spotlight just one. Nevertheless, we can take a look at a few that have come to the forefront as well as acknowledge other issues affecting the profession and the achievements of a Civil Rights icon.

Child welfare: With many caseworkers stuck at home or taking leave, imperiled children have become more vulnerable. Contacting families by phone doesn’t produce the same results as in-home visits. But a lack of protective equipment and other means of support has made child welfare workers less likely to perform their normal duties.

Mental health: Several surveys from reputable sources have pointed out the toll the pandemic is taking on mental health. It’s important to note that social workers are dealing with the crisis from both sides of the aisle—they’re helping facilitate the treatment of others while also personally combating the pandemic’s psychological effects.

COVID in the prison population: An approach that could be described as callous has made America’s prisons a petri dish for COVID-19. Inmate advocates have urged stronger measures to ensure prisoner safety. Many states have released prisoners, a strategy that also has consequences. For example, a man awaiting trial in Alexandria, VA, on several charges, including rape, violated the terms of his release and subsequently murdered his accuser, according to police.

Vaccine distribution: We’re all (well, not quite all, I guess) hoping for the day a vaccine arrives. Where will minorities stand in the line? To ensure chaos doesn’t reign, a plan must be in place.

The November election: It’s essential that everyone is given the same opportunity to cast their ballot, whether it’s in person or by mail. Color me skeptical. When I completed my application to vote by mail—the form was super easy to fill out here in Pennsylvania—I discovered an odd problem: It did not fit into the return envelope. I hope they accept folded forms.

John Lewis: Despite President Trump saying in an interview with Axios on HBO that he was unsure how history would remember the late congressman, an army of others spoke eloquently about the Civil Rights hero’s impact on America. Perhaps my favorite came from Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational fund: “I don’t know of another leader in this country with the moral standing of Rep. John Lewis. His life and work helped shape the best of our national identity.”

In the challenging months ahead, it will be up to the social work profession to follow in Lewis’ legacy.