By Wayne Johnson, Coordinator of Client Services, Salinas
With all the news stories about coronavirus (COVID-19) that we see each day talking about limiting social encounters and physical contact, I can’t help but think about what the situation would be like without videophones (VPs). With VPs, we can at least communicate with our Deaf and Hard of Hearing friends and family members. We can see them on VPs and communicate in American Sign Language. VPs ensure easy and accessible communication because we can sign in our primary language and see each other’s facial expressions. It is not like 12-15 years ago when we would have been limited to a TTY and instant messaging in English, which is void of facial expressions and not the primary language of many Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals.
Technology has greatly improved staying in social contact during times when physical contact carries a risk to both our health and those we associate with on a daily basis. While we are under this COVID-19 lockdown on physical interactions, we can be grateful that it is not happening during the days of TTYs. But, there is another benefit of having a VP at this time in history, not only can we contact our friends for social purposes, we can check on our loved ones to make sure they are alright, both physically and emotionally.
Periods like this pandemic are not only a time of great physical change in how we go about our daily lives, but also stress us emotionally. While you may not be experiencing emotional stress, one or more people in your life may be. Your calling them on VP just to say “Hi, how are you?” can brighten their day and yours.
Remember, also during this time of fear over COVID-19, you can limit yours, your friends’ and family’s risk of contracting COVID-19 by washing your hands often, especially since this virus can stay alive for a long time on both hard and plastic surfaces. Another fact is that some individuals can test positive for COVID-19 without feeling or showing any symptoms. This means that the person who just opened the door or used the shopping cart before you could have COVID-19 and not look sick, but can be a carrier of the virus. How do you know what is safe to touch without risk? You simply don’t! That is why you need to wash your hands often and use hand sanitizers when soap is not available. Do NOT touch your face, mouth, or eyes because they provide the virus with easy access into your body. I know this is hard when our language involves a lot of signs that come into contact with our face, mouth, and eyes. Try not touching your face while signing, but instead, hold your hands away from your face a few inches. It might keep you from getting sick.
And again, just because you may not feel the effects of COVID-19, it does not mean that you are not at risk of transferring it to others. Most importantly, we do not want to risk those over 65 years old or older and/or have health conditions, such as heart trouble or diabetes, which puts them at risk for severe illness and even death.
The reason DHHSC and many other service providers are closing their offices is to do our part by reducing people’s exposure to this dangerous virus as much as possible. This will help prevent more people from getting sick and reduce the burdens of hospitals and healthcare providers serving all those who need them. There is a very real possibility that if too many are infected with COVID-19 at the same time, the influx can overstrain the hospitals and clinics’ resources and not everyone can get needed medical care. We care about our community too much to take that chance. You can still email, VP, or call by voice phone DHHSC staff. We may be working from home, but we are still here to serve you.