Coping with COVID-19
The Sisters of Providence and all our ministries have been focused on preparing for the arrival of the coronavirus in Massachusetts since February. Governor Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency on March 24 and closed non-essential businesses, ordering all to shelter in place. Our congregational staff had the option of working from home or periodically coming to the office. We all have donned our masks and are armed with wipes and hand sanitizers and are following all the protocols for social distancing.
Facing current reality
We had to face the difficult reality of making two small layoffs and assisting staff through the process of obtaining unemployment compensation and the additional federal enhancement of $1,200. We worked to apply for the Payment Protection Loan Program for each of our ministries and completed the applications, assembled the required documentation and sought various board approvals. These funds provide a life line in the short run to support these non-profit organizations.
Because our ministries often focus on elders and those who are poor, we instituted tight restrictions on accessing the ministry buildings by workers, guests, and vendors. Each visitor answers several questions, has his/her temperature taken, and uses a hand sanitizer. As the number of COVID-19 cases has grown rapidly in Massachusetts and the total deaths have climbed, the intensity of all of these precautions has increased. Massachusetts, in its surge the week of April 27, had the distinction of having the fourth highest rate of COVID-19 cases, just behind New York, New Jersey and Michigan. Fortunately, due to careful preparations our hospitals in western Mass. have not been overwhelmed to date.
Sisters adapt to changes
Sisters living at Providence Place have had to adjust to having meals delivered to their rooms or eat in their lounge with six feet of spacing. With all liturgical services curtailed, Easter Liturgy was experienced through television or other media.
In addition, the death of one of our Sisters prompted us to face limitations. There was no wake or funeral and only a simple burial service at the cemetery.
In life and in death, our way of being and relating have changed.