March 11, 2021 – A year ago, our lives were turned upside down by COVID-19. On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization determined that the Coronavirus was considered a pandemic, and emergency declarations were issued in Massachusetts and other states. Within 48 hours, Health Care For All (HCFA) moved all operations fully remote, including the HelpLine. This was possible because of the commitment of our staff members who made arrangements for remote work, as well as our funders who had provided support for HCFA to upgrade our IT equipment just weeks before the crisis.

The last 365 days have been challenging for all of us, but they have been especially hard for those dealing with illness and, the thousands of families coping with the loss of a loved one.  The pandemic has also created new burdens for Massachusetts residents who lost their jobs or those facing economic hardships. For many, the HCFA HelpLine has remained a reliable and trustworthy resource. Hannah, Carlos, Denise, Zaira, Mara and Tania have worked with over 15,000 callers in the last year. The HelpLine team has helped thousands to navigate the health care system, apply for health insurance, and answer questions about testing, treatment and access to vaccinations in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

It has been clear that the pandemic has not impacted all communities equally. Communities of color have been devastated by the pandemic and the related economic crisis. At the same time, the murder of George Floyd and the constant stream of videos depicting police brutality against People of Color has increased focus on the structural racism in our health care system and society at large. Because of the health disparities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the movement towards and calls for racial justice, the whole HCFA team is intentionally placing more emphasis on the health equity work we do – from policy and advocacy work to community education and organizing.

We are not out of the woods yet, and COVID-19 is still shaping the way we are living and working. However, as the number of cases goes down and vaccination efforts ramp up, we are able to see better days ahead. Today, when we mark this anniversary, I think of all the lives that have been lost and cut short due to this pandemic, and I think of all the health care providers, frontline workers, and essential workers who have kept our world moving. I particularly want to thank the HCFA team for all of their hard work and commitment to promoting health justice, racial justice and addressing health inequities during these tumultuous times. It is because of people like you that I am hopeful we will come through on the other side with newly found resiliency, community and optimism.

Amy Rosenthal, Executive Director, Health Care For All