February 2021 Update

A Letter from TAF President Ho Chie Tsai

February 15, 2021

Greetings! And Happy Lunar New Year during this Year of the Ox!

I hope you are well as we approach one full year living under COVID-19 restrictions. I can only imagine how hard it has been for our collective TAF families–whether you have been working/schooling from home, serving as an essential or front-line worker, or enduring other personal hardships. As executive director Vince Huang mentioned in the prior email, anti-Asian racism and bullying has also been on the rise, and we are particularly concerned about the safety of our community members. I also recognize that mental health issues and risks have risen considerably for our youth due to prolonged isolation. It’s during times like these when we long to reconnect with the support systems within our community.

Although our TAF board of directors, medical director, and senior leadership have not yet made any final decisions on what TAF might look like for this summer, I would like to give you an update on what we are monitoring in order to make an eventual decision when the time is right.

  • First, we remain in contact with Manchester University to see if they anticipate opening up campus and hosting any summer programs for this year.
  • Second, we continue to monitor the case rates of COVID nationally and locally to see if we might be able to predict a safe threshold for bringing our youth and staff together assuming proper precautions can be put in place.
  • Third, we are following the progress of COVID vaccine distribution and availability to the general population. As you probably know, these are only currently available to people ages 16 or older.
  • Fourth, we are also following the availability of COVID testing and whether reliable point-of-care kits might become available.

Regardless, I’ve asked that our staff start working on imagining what TAF 2021 might look like–either as an in-person, virtual, or hybrid scenario. (Tentatively–In-person: July 25-Aug 1; Virtual: weekends during July 17-31) This year will be incredibly challenging because this will take essentially twice the work with lots of creativity and adaptability. Hopefully in April, when we have more data and information to reflect upon, we will provide some updates and check in with you to see how your family feels about our plans, whatever they may be.

Speaking as a pediatrician, I will personally share that I am more hopeful now than I was at the end of 2020. In general, children overall do very well even if they are diagnosed with COVID-19. They are rarely hospitalized and even post-infection issues such as MIS-C are extremely rare. We are also starting to see data and official CDC recommendations that suggest kids can interact safely in school-like settings if proper precautions are in place. Furthermore, the new case rates of COVID-19 throughout the Midwest have dropped by over 60-70% since the holiday peaks–much faster than even I expected. As immunization rates increase over time and better weather comes around, I suspect the numbers will continue to improve dramatically.

In the meantime, stay vigilant, mask up, and when the opportunity arises, please consider getting vaccinated–especially if you have any contact with grandparents, seniors, or those with chronic medical conditions.

Let’s all stay optimistic and hopeful. We know it will be safe one day soon to resume “normal” life, and each day seems to bring us closer to that point.

Ho Chie Tsai, MD
President, Taiwanese American Foundation