By April Holman | April 10, 2020

It’s a beautiful spring morning in Topeka. The sun is shining through the window of my makeshift home office, and the neighborhood is alive with the sound of singing birds, barking dogs and the conversation of the occasional family passing by on a walk. A person could almost forget that the world has turned upside down in the last month. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly changed life in our communities, threatening the health and financial security of Kansans and creating a host of heroes including some in the most unexpected places.

At last count, the virus has claimed 42 lives and sickened 1,106 people in our state. The loss of our family, friends and neighbors is heartbreaking. We are all trying to reduce further suffering by staying home when we can and practicing social distancing when we need to be out, but we know that we haven’t even reached the peak of the pandemic in Kansas yet.

Health care providers in every setting are scrambling to find and purchase protective gear for their facilities. This coincides with significant financial losses from the postponement of elective procedures and non-emergency medical visits. The result is a devastating toll on physicians, dentists, mental and behavioral health providers, clinics, hospitals, nursing homes and the whole range of health care providers in our state. At the same time, our health care infrastructure has never been more vital to our communities or been placed under more pressure.

The pandemic is taking a financial toll outside of health care as well. With all but essential businesses closed this month, layoffs and permanent business closures have resulted in record-breaking unemployment numbers across the state. Unfortunately, many of these jobs will not bounce back after the peak of the pandemic and we are looking at the prospect of a slow recovery that could mean months or years before we return to pre-pandemic economic activity.

In many ways our current reality is grim. However, in the midst of the hardship heroes are springing up all over our communities. From the makers of homemade face masks that are streaming into nursing homes, hospitals and other health care facilities to the volunteers distributing school lunches and food to those in need, there are countless individuals answering the call to help. Lower-wage essential workers in grocery stores, child care, preparation of food for take-out, sanitation and delivery services are keeping our communities running. Teachers are quickly mastering new technologies to help their students continue to learn through the end of the school year. Manufacturers are transitioning their production to create needed medical supplies. Health care workers are putting their own health and safety at risk caring for people with COVID-19.

Many of these heroes are members of the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas network. We cannot be prouder of the work that you are doing or more grateful for your sacrifices. The selfless commitment of our Kansas heroes inspire us and reassure us that times will get better in our communities.

As the sun shines through my window on this beautiful spring morning, the reality of our health and economic crisis weighs heavily on my mind. However, I find comfort in the presence of the heroes in our midst and hope for better times to come.

I wish you and your families good health today and in the weeks to come.

April Holman is the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas’ executive director. Contact April at april@expandkancare.com.