At least once a week, veterinarian Sharon Lynch brings people to her Washington practice, Hilltowns Veterinary Clinic, to be by her pet’s side when the animal is euthanized.
She knows there is a chance the coronavirus can spread. However, it is worth giving this moment to pets and owners together.
The rest of their work also involves risks. She interacts with pet owners every day through her open car windows and has taken care of sick dogs whose owners have tested positive for COVID-19.
Now, Lynch wants to know why the state has banned veterinarians to the back of the vaccine line.
“We see people every day,” she said. “The state wanted us to be indispensable in March. And now we’re not even close to being vaccinated. “
Sharon Lynch, who runs a veterinary practice in Washington, says she doesn’t understand why vets were rated “essential” in the spring but were banned from the second phase of the state’s vaccination schedule. Other groups have raised similar concerns, including journalists and college staff.
The crux of the matter for Lynch and other workers is that last spring the state classified some, but not all, employees as “material”.
The employment-related part of the second phase will include a large subset of the government’s “essential workforce”, such as: B. Grocery store employees, personal protective equipment manufacturers, sewerage company employees, and food pantry volunteers, but excludes other employees who still work largely personally – including veterinarians, college staff, and journalists.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has proposed that priority be given to anyone whose work “must be performed on site and in close proximity (<6 feet) to the public or employees”. The CDC guidelines also strongly recommend introducing librarians, veterinarians, college staff, journalists, and others to the public, and groups excluded from the second phase have campaigned in Massachusetts to follow these federal recommendations.
James Birge, president of the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams and chairman of the presidential council of the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference, urged the state to prioritize college and university staff over other educators.
“Many of our employees, especially those who are involved in direct student contact, continue to work on campus and are exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace,” he told the state university council.
Journalists also feel left behind. The Massachusetts Broadcasters Association sent a letter to the state last month advocating prioritization of media workforce.
“The nature of journalism is personal,” said executive director Jordan Walton. “The Social Justice Movement has been probably the biggest example of this in the past 12 months. Our TV journalists in particular were right in the thick of it, with protests across the country. “
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Walton pointed out that reporters aren’t the only news media personnel at risk. With television and radio programs, personal crews must also work close to each other to keep the programs airborne.
Amid setbacks, the state determined that it would re-examine professional priorities later in the rollout.
“Additions and further clarifications to the list of specific occupations and groups will be paused at this time,” the state website said.
Lynch believes that excluding vets is a missed opportunity as she and her colleagues could help get more shots in the arms.
While Massachusetts veterinarians are not on the eligible vaccine list, several other states have allowed veterinarians to administer vaccines as part of their rollout strategies, according to a state document made available to the Western Massachusetts Medical Reserve Corps.
Since she also has a license to practice in Connecticut, Lynch has even received emails asking if she would like to help manage recordings in that state.
“We could help ease the burden on the health system,” she said. “But it doesn’t even seem wanted in Massachusetts.”
If she could get vaccinated, Lynch said, she would immediately offer her help as a vaccine.
Like other major companies, Lynch added, veterinarians have remained open since the beginning of the pandemic. In the spring, veterinarians even donated personal protective equipment to help hospitals fight the virus.
“We see as many people as we see some of the retail stores that are ahead,” she said. “We feel that the state does not respect us and we tell ourselves that we are not essential.”
The past year has been full of COVID-19 fears for her and her colleagues. Sometimes pet owners would call to report positive test results after a visit. Others simply refused to put on a mask while sitting in their cars talking to their faces through an open window. Additionally, Lynch is now busier than ever amid what has been called a “pandemic puppy boom.”
“Everyone I know who is a vet or vet technician has been exposed at work,” she said.
Sadi Wittig, a veterinary technician at Wahconah Veterinary Services in Hinsdale, can clearly remember her own fear. The clinic she works in, which has more than two dozen animals daily, is a rare practice that can still be stepped by an owner. Earlier in the pandemic, she said, called someone to say they tested positive after being inside.
“They were ashamed and humiliated and so apologetic,” she said. The practice closed its doors briefly and everyone in the practice tested negative.
Since then she has felt relatively safe, always masked and constantly disinfected. Nevertheless, says Wittig, the employees inevitably have to work closely together. She hopes that when the state adds veterinarians to the second phase, officials will involve technicians as well.
“We interact with people just like the doctor,” she said. “We’re right in the room next to him.”