Coronavirus: How one Dayton social worker is coping

Denetta Harris has been a licensed social worker for over 10, and been in social services for 23.

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Denetta Harris has been a licensed social worker for over 10, and been in social services for 23.

Life with coronavirus has become stressful for Denetta Harris, a social worker in the Dayton area who works to help her clients and cope with the big impact of COVID-19 on African Americans.

As a social worker with Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley for the past six months, Harris has been affected by the COVID-19 crisis in how she does her work.

“I have been a licensed social worker for over 10 years, and been in social services for 23 and I do therapy with kids. Telehealth has been how my work has been impacted,” she explained. “Our agency did not use telehealth, but now it’s being utilized. I’m happy that Gov. DeWine has opened up guidelines for implementation of this because before, there were several guidelines that had to be temporarily put aside so we can help our clients.”

Harris feels blessed to be able to work from home during the pandemic and said it has helped her to appreciate blessings even more.

“I’m volunteering at a food pantry and I am seeing how this virus is affecting my community,” she said. “I live alone, so I have made sure I keep in touch with family and friends so that I can have contact. I never knew how much technology actually can connect us, and we’d have to rely on it so much to still have connections with people.”

For Harris, her family and friends use Zoom or Facebook video messenger to stay connected, but there are social distancing meetings for a a couple of them from time-to-time.

“I’ve even met with friends and families in a social distance way, just so I could physically see them face to face. Having masks on of course and staying six feet away,” she said.

She’s hopeful that the pandemic and quarantine will pass.

“But I’m very realistic that there will be a ‘new normal,’” Harris said. “We will never be the same. It makes me sad. But, I’m finding I’m now a ‘germaphobe.’”

She added, “I expect to be wearing face masks through the rest of the year, at least. This virus is not going away so fast, no matter how much there are protests about opening up the state. I am hopeful, but I’m very very cautious now.”

According to recent data from the Ohio Department of Health, 21 percent of the total people with COVID-19 cases in Ohio are black, and given the virus’ impact on minority groups, Gov. Mike DeWine formed a new Minority Health Strike Force.

“We must recognize that there are many Ohioans who have an increased risk of being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, and we must do everything we can to protect all Ohioans from this pandemic,” DeWine said.

A history of systemic racism and underlying conditions such as obesity, diabetes and asthma has made many African Americans vulnerable to the coronavirus, Harris said.

“Unfortunately, the numbers are showing how this virus is affecting black people,” she told the Dayton Daily News. “We are dying because of the health disparities in our country. It’s a pathetic shame that it took this virus to highlight this. I also see how this is affecting Native Americans. Until these health disparities get addressed, we will continue to die because of these issues.”

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