March 24, 2020 at 10:56 pm EDT | by Philip Van Slooten
D.C. holds coronavirus virtual town hall for seniors
coronavirus, gay news, Washington Blade
(Image public domain)

Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office on Tuesday held a telephone town hall that addressed seniors’ coronavirus concerns.

Tomás Talamante, Bowser’s deputy chief of staff, moderated the event.

“It is important that we stay connected even while practicing social distancing,” Bowser told the virtual participants, which her office estimates numbered more than 4,000. “Our top priority is blunting the spread of the virus … we especially want to send that message for senior citizens in the District.”

Office on Aging Director Laura Newman stated her agency is working daily to deliver meals “to those who are most vulnerable.”

“It is important that older adults do everything possible to minimize contact with COVID-19,” she explained.

Though the mayor emphasized, “The virus doesn’t discriminate … that’s why everyone needs to stay at home.”

Other panelists included Department of Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt and Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency Director Christopher Rodriguez.

“We currently have 137 cases in our community,” Nesbitt said, reiterating the mayor’s call for residents to stay home, if possible. “We have very close borders with Maryland and Virginia and we continue to monitor cases in the district and in the capital region.”

All panelists addressed efforts to “flatten the curve” and reduce the number of cases which could quickly overwhelm medical resources across D.C.

“We have been working with our medical system,” Nesbitt said. “To have them postpone nonemergency health care services. Elective procedures must be postponed to decrease the number of patients hospitalized and free up personnel, beds and other resources.”

The Washington Blade asked Yabroff if gender-affirming treatments, such as surgery and hormone therapy, were considered nonemergency health care. He stated he wasn’t certain and would look into the matter. 

Nesbitt said the public can help free up medical resources by using alternate strategies such as virtual doctor’s visits. She also stated hospitals are putting up tents outside their buildings to diagnose early and separate patients who may have coronavirus from other patients and further reduce the virus’ spread.

SAGE, an LGBTQ seniors advocacy organization, has noted LGBTQ seniors are particularly vulnerable to isolation due to the legacy of discrimination.

Bowser addressed the issue by announcing a new service called Call and Talk.

“We know that being home alone can lead to isolation,” said Newman, explaining with the chatline seniors can “talk about anything from sports to movies to music. You can still make meaningful connections and stay engaged.”

Bowser invited seniors to call 202-724-5626 to learn more about the service.

“These are unprecedented and troubling times,” she told attendees. “But I want to let you know that we’re working hard for you.”

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