Esgar: COVID’s toll on healthcare families and what the Colorado legislature can do

State Representative Daneya Esgar is in a unique positive in the state. As an elected official she is responsible for addressing the COVID-19 crisis in Colorado’s General Assembly.

At home, her family is one of the thousands of healthcare families working under constant fear of COVID-19 because her wife, Heather, is a nurse.

Contracting COVID-19 is daily concern of healthcare families who go to work to help their patients but also are at risk of being exposed.

Rep. Esgar is a 3rd term legislator from Pueblo, Colo and chair of the powerful Joint Budget Committee which will have to deal with the fallout of an economy reeling from COVID-19.

Esgar also knows when the Colorado Legislature returns after going into recess because of the outbreak, that body will have to address the toll this virus will have on families from frontline workers to the families who lost loved ones and to the businesses who lost their livelihood.

Interview Highlights

Can you talk about what that’s like when a spouse goes to work every day and is in danger? What is that like for her and for you?

I think the first word that comes to mind is overwhelming. Um, Heather absolutely loves her job. Loves being a nurse and she works with some vulnerable patients.

She works at a cardiology office and runs a heart failure clinic. And some of these patients are, some of the ones that easily could be impacted if they were to get COVID. And so that’s, that’s nerve wracking in and of itself.

But also, you know, it’s, I empathize with any of these families I serve with. Representative Mullica who’s also an ER nurse, and during our recess, he’s actually going back to work and he was sharing me the stories that he has. He has two young kids at home and he’s having to literally debate if he’s going to sleep in the garage while he’s doing this or what he’s going to do to keep his kids safe.

In terms of the stress, how can you leave that at the door this time?

I don’t think you do. The amount of anxiety and stress that we all feel just in the middle of this pandemic, health care workers are carrying that burden even more so though and they’re holding that and trying to figure out what to do with that.

Do you think that the legislature can how valuable these people are or when get out of this session – putting it together with glue and sticks — and then we come into 2021 and all this will be forgotten.

I don’t think all this is going to be forgotten ever.

And I will tell you the experience I’ve had in the last six years at the legislature, anytime we talk about nurses or anybody in the healthcare profession, they are highly regarded. So I want to put that out there. Then every legislator I’ve ever met, nurses and CNS and everybody who works in the health care industry up on a shelf.

On getting tests to Pueblo:

I’ve been vocal about my frustrations about the original lack of testing and Pueblo. We still have a lack of testing. Let me be clear on that. But when I heard that we weren’t getting adequate numbers of testing to even see what the temperature was in Pueblo.

I was able to contact the Colorado Department of Public Health and really push them and say, what are we doing in these other areas and not just Pueblo. Let’s be clear, there are areas that still don’t have testing going on.

That was heard. I got a response within a few days that, “Hey, we called the national guard, they’re going to come and set up a hundred tests at the state fair.”

Is that enough? Absolutely not.

So can you give us a perspective? How bad is it going to be?

We’re going to have to make these very tough decisions to make sure we’re keeping the state going and keep keeping the state functioning. That being said, we are also evaluating money that we’re coming that’s coming in from the federal government. Specifically for issues around COVID, any kind of loss that we’ve had because of COVID, we are looking at the federal money that is coming to the state and figuring out how we allocate that money, inappropriate that money in the most effective way possible to make people whole, to bring people back.

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