When Life Abruptly Changed

By Jen Naylor Gesick, Kathleen Seaman & Kevin Tankersley

How the pandemic has affected 17 Wacoans in unique ways

Pictured: Photos by Cecy Ayala, photographybycecy.com and provided by H-E-B, Andrew Flowers, Baylor Athletics, Molly Cross and Paul Offill

On March 23, Mayor Kyle Deaver issued the first shelter-in-place orders for the city of Waco due to the threat of COVID-19. Those orders would be extended to last until April 30, coinciding with statewide orders. Life as we knew it took a sharp turn, and we all experienced varying degrees of whiplash in the process. Grocery shopping went from a mundane part of life to an exercise in gambling — which store is my best bet to find a package of two-ply TP? Schooling became a family affair as students attended classes at home on the computer and parents tried to help them finish out the year. Meetings no longer required driving or destinations, but instead we cracked open our laptops and signed in virtually to see coworkers or chat with friends. We were forced to hunker down, with shops, libraries, museums, theaters, gyms, restaurants and bars closed to the public. Life was suddenly very … different.

And the impact hit each of us in different ways — mentally, financially, physically, socially.

We interviewed more than a dozen members of the community to learn how this pandemic has affected each of them specifically, like a restaurant owner learning how to serve food with an empty cafe or a new mom introducing her baby to his grandparents through a windowpane. As you read about the struggles, notice the hope that always rises in adversity. This is Waco.


Critical Care Physician
Dr. Matt Pattillo
Extra precautions to protect family

Back a few months ago, when things were normal and the world hadn’t yet heard of COVID-19, Dr. Matt Pattillo would get home from work, head into the house, and hug his wife and four children.
Now, however, that routine has been changed. He goes into the garage, takes off his shoes, strips down to his underwear and heads straight to the shower.
“Then I go hang out with the kids,” he said. “It’s very different than what I’ve done before.”
Pattillo is a pulmonary and critical care physician with Ascension Providence, and he’s been working directly with patients who have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
“I’m an ICU doc. And so we’re seeing not every single COVID patient that’s been admitted, but we’ve seen most of them, at least all the sick ones,” he said. “You know, most people who get COVID are not going to have really severe symptoms. They’re going to have mild symptoms. Heck, in some cases, they may not even know they have it.”
In fact, he said, only about 2% to 3% of COVID-19 patients have symptoms severe enough to require ventilators. And Ascension Providence is well-stocked with ventilators and personal protection equipment, he said.
“What’s been great is the community,” he said. “We’ve had several people bring us masks. We’ve had several people bring us face shields, just different people helping out in different ways to make sure that we’re all covered. And there’s never been more food in the hospital than there is right now. My gosh, the community has been wonderful in providing us with meals, and it just makes everybody feel special and appreciated. And it’s really been neat to see the community come together to help in that way.”


Restaurant Owner
Lynsey Castillo
“The hardest thing I’ve ever done”

Lynsey Castillo has worked in the restaurant business for 27 years. It’s the only job she’s ever had. She’s confident in her business acumen.
“I can do anything,” she said. “I can make it happen. I can figure it out.”
But when it came time — abruptly — to convert La Fiesta from a full-service restaurant to a take-out only establishment?
“This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” she said. “The to-go is just such a different way to execute your food when you’re packing it up to go instead of when it’s coming out of the oven and you’re taking it to your guests. Our biggest challenge is just learning how to pack it and how to get it out the door. We took apart our kitchen, our expo line and moved everything around just so we could pack orders in a more efficient way.”
The first couple of weeks of operating as a to-go only place was a learning experience, she said. “I threw my hands up a few times and thought, ‘How are we going to ever do this?’ And then a couple of weeks later, we had a system and it seems to be working.”
Castillo, the vice president, director and co-owner of La Fiesta said that sales are down quite a bit, especially at the family’s three spaces at downtown’s Union Hall, but most employees who want to work are getting some hours.
“We’re running about 60% of our normal staff currently. We really haven’t technically laid anyone off,” she said. “If anyone’s asked to work or wanted to work, we’ve given them the opportunity to work. We’re trying to keep everybody that’s showed interest or wanted to work with a job.”


High School Teacher
Julie Boffman
The struggle to find structure

Julie Boffman teaches Advanced Placement statistics, calculus and pre-cal at Waco High School, so many of her 110 or so students are seniors. And Boffman has always enjoyed sharing this time of the school year with them, as they’re preparing for prom and graduation and the transition to college. The lack of those things is what has made the transition to online teaching particularly difficult.
“I was on a Zoom call with a couple girls from my AP stats class. They were talking about prom, and they told me, from the very beginning, before it was even for sure that they weren’t going to have it, they’re going to be really sad,” Boffman said. “And I’ve got texts from another girl that’s very involved in student council, and she was devastated. But I think some of them were trying to plan little things they’re going to do once we’re off the shutdown, to get together with their friends and still dress up. They’re trying to be creative in ways to still get the prom experience.”
Boffman, who’s in her third year at Waco High, said her students thrive on structure, and the lack of that right now is frustrating them. “Without that structure, they’ve been struggling to keep up,” she said.
And Boffman said she’s facing the same issues.
“Some days, I feel very on top of it and productive and like I’m doing everything I can. And other days, I feel very lethargic,” she said. “I miss that structure too. I’ve tried to set up a schedule for my AP classes and stick to that, and that’s helped me and the kids. I’ve been posting online videos for them to watch, and then we have Zoom meetings if they have any questions. I’m trying to emulate what we do in class as much as I can online.”


Community Volunteer
Reyna Reyes
Power in numbers

One night in her kitchen, Reyna Reyes and her mother, Matea Perales, were discussing the current mask shortage affecting health care professionals. Reyes works for a merchant processing company, but she also manages social media for banks and mortgage companies and is a former trauma nurse. Her mother has been a professional seamstress in Waco for more than 40 years. Inspired by their combined backgrounds, Reyes decided to leverage her social media expertise and create a Facebook group, Waco Masks Seamstress for COVID, as a way to recruit local volunteers to sew nonmedical-grade masks for health care professionals as well as centralize the growing mask requests from local health care organizations.
Assisting in the group’s organization are two women Reyes calls the “Kim/Kim Duo,” Kim Kazanas and Kim Meadors. Kazanas has served as the group’s de facto sewing expert on the page. Meadors handles many of the group’s administrative tasks. According to Reyes, she has also been key to securing many of the group’s community partners and resources.
Since March 20, the group has grown to more than 1,000 seamstress members and has created and delivered more than 13,000 masks. Some of the materials for the masks are bought by the seamstresses, however, the group has overwhelmingly received donations of materials, time and resources from a long list of community partners. For instance, Larry Brem of Banana Scrubs provided one of the largest donations of fabric, Shipp Belting has provided pre-cut materials, Visiting Angels has assisted with mask delivery, and Action Rental has donated the use of its facility for the group’s distribution operations.
“The two Kims and I, we didn’t even know each other [before starting the group]. It’s crazy how in times like this, folks can get stuff done,” Reyes said. “I’ve been here 40 years, and Waco has truly helped my family grow and has supported us throughout all these years. I think our community is just like that. We’re so supportive of one another, and we come together in times of need.”


Grocery Inventory Manager
Vinson Garner
A way to bring hope

Vinson Garner, a second-generation grocer and employee at Brookshire Brothers in Lorena, looks back on the first few weeks of the pandemic panic shopping with a tinge of shock in his voice.
“It’s the word of the year — unprecedented,” Garner said.
He said the demand for toilet paper really caught him by surprise.
“My boss had heard rumors that people were looking for paper goods,” Garner said. “He told me to go take a picture of what we have so we can tell people. We had a decent amount on the shelf at the time.”
Within about 48 hours of sharing the photo, the store shelves were wiped clean.
As the stores got busier and shelves emptier, customers from hundreds of miles away would pack coolers to carry their food back home. Then when shelter-in-place orders started to take effect in counties throughout Texas, there was some relief.
“It was like we were under attack,” Garner said.
And in the midst of all of this, Garner began helping his community in the best way he knew how.
Every evening he would post what items the store was expecting to have in stock tomorrow and whether they were receiving a shipment and what was in it.
“The biggest thing to me was ‘What can I do to be a difference maker?’” Garner said. “More than people looking for toilet paper, looking for flour, looking for yeast, more than looking for their grocery items, more than anything — people need hope. So I thought, ‘What can I do to ease fears, ease worry, ease anxiety?’”


NY-Based Doctor & Waco Native
Dr. Andrew Flowers
“What nightmares are made of”

Waco native Andrew Flowers, chief family medicine resident at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center in Queens, New York, has been on the front line of the biggest battle against the virus to date. It has deeply affected him personally and professionally.
“For me as a physician, this is what nightmares are made of,” the Vanguard College Preparatory alumnus said in a recent phone interview. “You hope and pray you can do something, but there’s only so much we have in our tool bag right now.”
In mid-March as patients were flooding into the hospital, Flowers was working longer shifts, six days a week. It seemed that every day was worse than the one before.
On top of that, his wife and newborn daughter, born March 8, briefly moved in with family to avoid exposure to the virus. Coming home to the empty apartment provided no respite from the ordeal he faced at work each day.
They were only away for a few days when Flowers experienced symptoms of COVID-19 but tested negative. His wife later tested positive with hardly any symptoms so they returned home.
Another boost for Flowers and his fellow heroes was when the hospital began announcing the discharge of each healthy COVID-19 patient. Instead of another code or emergency, good news is coming over the PA system.
“It’s nice and definitely needed,” Flowers said. “You can see everyone starting to wear down. It’s the constant suffering and death you’re exposed to when at work combined with working more hours and sleeping less. Staying in a good place mentally is one of the biggest challenges at this point, so any of the little victories do go a long way.”


Baylor Athlete
DiDi Richards
The choice to maintain discipline

DiDi Richards just completed her junior season as a member of the Baylor Lady Bears basketball team, though it ended long before she was ready. Her team had won 28 games and lost only two, and the Lady Bears were ranked No. 3 in the country. They had already won the Big 12 regular season championship and were heavily favored to win the conference’s postseason tournament and play deep into the NCAA championship. She was named the WBCA Defensive Player of the Year and the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year, the sport’s highest defensive honors.
Richards is now at home in Cypress, taking online classes and spending time with her mother and brother.
“It brings back old memories,” she said. “I left for college three years ago. So being in the house with them, it kind of reminds me I didn’t want to do chores and stuff. So that’s really what I’m being reminded about right now, washing dishes and taking trash out.”
Richards said that after a few days of “sleeping until like the middle of the day,” she realized she needed to do better. Now, she’s up by around 10 a.m. and takes care of her schoolwork — she’s a communication studies major at Baylor — and gets in some exercise. She runs, does ab workouts and gets in some yoga.
“And I just miss seeing my teammates,” she said. “I think I enjoy my teammates a lot more than I thought I did. And I didn’t realize [that] until I had to leave them. So now that I’m not around them, I’m kind of bored.”


Pastor
John Durham
The solution to a problem

After Wacoans were encouraged to stay home and schools were closed, there were many neighborhood locations, such as churches, that were food distribution sites for families in need. The only problem, however, was that food was given out weekdays only, and there wasn’t a way to ensure that weekend meals were being provided. And many families were also lacking in household supplies.
That’s when Highland Baptist Church began a program called Wednesday Store and Weekend Food. Each Wednesday, folks can drive up to the church and request certain cleaning and hygiene supplies, and the church will provide.
“It’s toilet paper, personal hygiene [items], cleaning supplies, shampoo, soap, toothpaste, diapers, baby formula,” said John Durham, lead pastor at Highland. “We’ve handed out thousands and thousands of diapers and gallons and gallons of baby formula.”
Then on Friday, the church passes out boxes of food.
“We give them a preset box with milk, bread, cereal, lunchmeat, canned vegetables, canned fruit, trail mix or granola bars or mixed nuts,” Durham said. “A volunteer comes out with the grocery bags … and we load it for them.”
Everything available at the Wednesday Store and Weekend Food has been donated by members of the church, Durham said.
Members of the community can also go to the church’s website and request help from church members. Folks can ask for assistance with grocery pickup, trips to the post office and pretty much any other small task. On the same page on the site, church members volunteer to complete those tasks.
“We’ve had 300-400 people who have filled that out and said, ‘I’m here to help,” Durham said, “and we’ve had about 100 that have said, ‘Here’s what I need some help with.’ And so that’s been an interesting thing to watch, many more people willing to help than people asking [for help] at this point.”


Nonprofit Director
Debbie King
New procedures to ensure safety

“Our phones started lighting up as soon as McLennan County was ordered to shelter in place,” said Debbie King, executive director of Meals on Wheels Waco.
Before the order, the nonprofit provided meals to about 650 homebound seniors in McLennan, Falls and Hill counties. According to King, MOW Waco added 70 seniors to its client list as of mid-April.
“A lot of seniors who had never asked us for meals started calling and saying, ‘We need meals because we’re scared to leave our house,’” King said.
To protect its volunteers and clients, MOW Waco has changed its delivery protocols. Currently, volunteers are asked to wear masks and use hand sanitizer, and they’re not allowed inside the MOW Waco building. Volunteers and clients are asked to practice social distancing as much as possible. Clients have been asked to place a table outside their door, if they can, for the food to be placed on. Volunteers ring the doorbell and step back from the door or call the client on the phone from the car, but they remain until they’ve seen the client collect the delivery.
“We have this really strong support of volunteers that show up every day,” King said.
She is overwhelmed and grateful, she said, for the number of people who have made monetary donations in recent weeks.
“It’s really great to have the community supporting us and wanting to make sure we can feed all these people that need to be fed,” King said.
MOW Waco does not have a need for volunteers at the moment, however, monetary donations are always welcome, as well as pet food. And of course, no one is going to say no to a roll of toilet paper.
If anyone’s looking for the staff after 3 p.m. on a given day, you won’t find them at the office.
“My staff has been just amazing,” King said. “Every day, they’re starting before 8 a.m. and putting out so much energy. I just said, ‘Let’s all go home at 3 o’clock.’ It’s been a great stress relief for everyone.”


Small Business Owners
Kimberly Batson & Alison Frenzel
The pivot to online sales

“It was truly providential,” Kimberly Batson said of Fabled Bookshop & Café’s new online store. “We’ve been working for months to launch our website in mid-March. We couldn’t have known how timely it was. We launched our website March 18 and then closed our doors March 20.”
Batson and Alison Frenzel are co-owners of Fabled, an independent bookstore downtown. Before this year’s spring break, they were expecting a general increase in traffic due to tourists. But as concerns about the coronavirus in the U.S. began to grow, they could see the domino effect heading to Waco.
“We were very fortunate that we could go online so fast,” Frenzel said. “That was a complete turnaround as far as operations. We were a storefront, and then overnight we became a warehouse.”
In addition to the online store, Fabled also began offering Indoorsy Boxes as another stream of revenue.
“As parents, the idea that we were going to be in our houses for who knows how long, we thought it would be great for kids to get a little surprise where they could have a book and something to do,” Frenzel said.
Indoorsy Boxes for kids are boxes of curated items, including a book and activity relevant to the child’s age, reading level and interest. Fabled’s booksellers create each box completely unique for the recipient. Adults can also get a personalized Indoorsy Box. For local delivery only, adults can add beer or wine to their box.
“We thought, ‘What can we do to help our community, to create excitement and spark discovery and a love of reading?’ The feedback that we’ve gotten has been so fun and just encouraging,” Batson said. “It’s definitely an adaptation to the moment, but it’s been really well received and we’re grateful.”
Frenzel added, “We’ve learned to pivot and still offer something that can delight and surprise people. We’re being scrappy and have just done our best to offer the same experience that people have when they come into Fabled.”


High School Senior
Hope Aguilar
Goodbye to class traditions

When spring break rolled around this year, Hope Aguilar was looking forward to some time off. The Waco High senior is class president and involved in band, soccer and Girl Scouts.
“March 6 was my last day at school, and I was just so relieved. I was super stressed out,” Aguilar said.
Then on March 13, Waco ISD and other area school districts announced spring break would be extended. Recently, on April 17, Gov. Greg Abbott announced the closure of Texas classrooms for the remainder of the school year. Still, school continues with students participating in classes virtually.
“The classes I have are doing Zoom [videoconference] calls, and other teachers are sending out ‘choice boards’ where you pick three or four assignments to do every week,” Aguilar said.
Before this, Aguilar said she would have loved to have more online classes. She had taken dual-credit online classes before without issue, but they weren’t in math or science.
“It’s been an adjustment for me. I have to try way harder with those subjects to retain information,” she said. “We’re all doing our best to adjust, but I miss being in the classroom. I learn best that way.”
For Aguilar and her fellow seniors, the biggest disappointment is that the rites of passage meant to celebrate the class of 2020, like prom, the senior picnic and class trip, are now canceled.
“I understand our health is our biggest priority, but it’s disappointing we had to cancel those things,” she said.
Even though Aguilar misses her friends, she’s managed to stay positive and find the good in her situation.
“My [two younger] brothers and I are all involved in a bunch of extracurriculars. It’s always really hectic at our house,” she said. “But something really good that has come out of this is just spending time together. We’ve had a lot more time to bond.”


Parent Working from Home
Elizabeth Naylor
The blessing after the struggle

Before the pandemic inched closer to home, Elizabeth Naylor, a single mom of three elementary school children, would have thought trying to do her full-time job from home while home-schooling was laughably impossible.
But Naylor, an administrative assistant for a large organization headquartered in Waco, found herself in exactly that situation.
“The first week wasn’t too bad because most everyone else was in the office and able to run things,” Naylor said. “It was also new to the kids, so they weren’t bored.”
Then the schools extended the closure, and homeschool work began for her 4-, 6- and 9-year-old. Overwhelmed, stressed and a little lost, it took a few days and maybe even a little longer to mostly figure it out, but said she surprised herself by not only handling it all but actually even enjoying it.
The transition for her work was pretty smooth, she said. Mostly everyone was sent home, and the team began using Microsoft meetings and communicating more via email and phone.
Home schooling, however, was a completely different story. But each day they got a little better, found out what worked and what didn’t and soon stress turned to routines and slowing down.
They also found themselves watching movies and playing games together more. Naylor said she never realized how busy they were before. Between sports, friends and church, they were hardly ever home.
“This has actually been kind of a gift,” the 34-year-old said. “Like a beautiful experience. They’re learning how to play together and adjust to the age difference so that they have somebody to play with. It actually turned out to be kind of a blessing for me. And not going anywhere and having to find a way to make up or play family games, it’s a whole different level of bonding.”


Pastor
Carl Gulley
Unity amid crisis

Over the last several weeks, many members of Antioch Community Church have dug a little deeper each time they’ve clicked on the Giving link on the church’s website. And none of that extra money has gone into the church coffers. Instead, it’s been directed to the Waco Relief Fund.
“This is not going into our budget. This is purely for how we can help people in the city,” said Carl Gulley, Antioch’s lead pastor. “And last week, we had 200 people reach out to the church” for assistance in paying bills. One family needed help with funeral expenses.
The Waco Relief Funds initiative got started, Gulley said, when some businesspeople in the church offered to match any funds others gave in a special offering that was designed to meet the needs of folks affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, those who might be out of work or facing other hardships. And other churches have chipped in as well.
“What was beautiful about this is though our church did a lot of the legwork, when Highland Baptist Church heard that we were doing this, they said, ‘Hey, we want to give toward that because those business guys are gonna match it,’” Gulley said. “This is a city thing. This isn’t an Antioch thing.”
And it’s not just in the financial aspect where Gulley is seeing churches working together. As he was growing up in Waco, Gulley said he had a sense of churches saying, “We’re the Baptists. We’re the Methodists. We’re the charismatics,” and they kept their distances from each other. Now, however, “I’ve felt such a camaraderie of the churches in the city. It feels like more than ever everybody’s together going, ‘Let’s help our city. Let’s help our community,’ and it’s a beautiful time right now to be in a church in the city of Waco.”


Brand-New Mom
Molly Cross
The grandparent tailgate

It was their first child, both sets of grandparents’ first grandchild, and the gender was a surprise. Molly and Zach Cross’ families intended to celebrate together in the hospital waiting room, but instead they wound up discovering a whole new reason to tailgate.
In early March as Molly’s March 29 due date neared, excitement was running high. Everything was ready to go, including the photographer and videographer they hired to capture the big day.
Then things started changing quickly. Molly watched the news and worried about how the coronavirus might affect her baby. On
March 22, local hospitals announced new visitor restrictions.
“We just accepted it, and that’s when the parents planned a tailgate,” the 28-year-old Robinson ISD teacher said. “We had a couple days to prepare for it. It didn’t make it any easier, but it wasn’t a big shock.”
Molly’s water broke the following Saturday a little after 8 p.m. She and Zach left for the hospital. Their parents packed their coolers and set up an overnight tailgate party in the hospital parking lot.
Her family’s antics were a popular topic of discussion among the amused and supportive nurses.
“The nurses really made it awesome for us,” she said. “We were taking pictures and FaceTiming. Thank God for technology.”
It wasn’t what they envisioned, but Molly described how she and Zach — just the two of them — soaked in and savored the moment their son, Clyde, arrived.
Within minutes, the new grandparents were standing outside at the window to the room waving and admiring the baby boy.
“It will be a good story to tell him one day,” Cross said. “It’s just been surreal, but we’re just trying to make the best of it. You take things for granted and when you face something like this, it really puts things in perspective. It makes you appreciate the little things.”


Recovering Patient
Paul Offill
Fear of the unknown

By April 17, it had been nearly three weeks since Paul Offill, principal of River Valley Intermediate School, stepped foot outside his home to go anywhere beyond his own backyard.
Offill was scheduled to take a COVID-19 test that could clear him of the virus, but he might have been more excited just to get in his truck and drive somewhere — even if it was to get a swab up his nose that he said felt as if it actually touched his brain.
The 43-year-old tested positive on March 31 — the same day news of the tragic death of Waco ISD middle school principal, Phillip Perry, shocked the community. Perry, 49, was McLennan County’s first novel virus-related casualty. The public would learn of Offill’s diagnosis the next day.
The barrage of bad news made it clear — the coronavirus was real, it was here and it could be dangerous. He was inundated with messages from his staff, parents of students, church family and friends. Everyone was extremely worried.
Offill was, too. Even though symptoms for he and his wife, Emily, and their two children were very mild throughout, the fear of the unknown was scary. He also struggled with guilt that he may have unknowingly exposed someone to the virus. It was the mental aspect which was the toughest part, Offill said.
On the morning of April 17 in an interview via Zoom, Offill seemed downright jovial. He went later that day to the drive-thru testing facility almost certain it would come back negative. But it did not. “My doctor was just baffled,” Offill said.
Since then, his wife had a day where she felt sick again, and his daughter spiked a fever above 101 F, but both were fine the next day. He’s hopeful that means it’s almost over and looks forward to doing little things like running to H-E-B to get a gallon of milk or just walking into his office at school again. “Just to have a little bit of our life back,” Offill said.


Pharmacist
Colleen Myers
Prescriptions to testing

Just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Colleen Myers had returned from Hawaii. And she was scheduled to attend a wedding in Sedona, which she hopes to do when life returns to normal at some point.
Myers, a pharmacist at the H-E-B on South Valley Mills Drive, said that things in her area have calmed down once the initial hysteria passed. There was a rush on prescription refills at first, she said, as customers were afraid there would be a shortage of medications or they just wouldn’t be able to venture out in public at all.
“That lasted maybe the first week or so whenever this started coming about, so around the middle of March, and then things have kind of normaled out now,” said Myers, who attended Midway schools before college at Baylor and pharmacy school at the University of Houston.
She expects traffic to pick back up now that Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas State Board of Pharmacy have allowed pharmacists to begin testing for COVID-19.
“We haven’t really had that need in Waco,” she said. “But if it does get to that, I think that will be a way that’ll start changing, just like with the H1N1, whenever pharmacists started giving the vaccines. I think that once there is a vaccine for it, I think that’s when we’ll start seeing so much more of an impact of actually giving the vaccines.”
Until then, however, Myers and her co-workers will keep answering the same queries over and over.
“The most common question is, ‘Where are your face masks? Where’s the hand sanitizer?’”


Healthcare Administrator
Dr. Brian Becker
Staying one step ahead

As it became a question of not if but when the novel coronavirus would reach McLennan County, local leaders began to evaluate the impending impact on our community. As chief medical officer and vice president of medical affairs at Ascension Providence, Dr. Brian Becker was involved in these assessments at both the hospital and community level.
“[At Providence], we started two months ago to look at what the impact would be in McLennan County and what would it mean for us as a hospital,” he said.
For example, Providence typically has 21 ventilators and its intensive care unit typically has 30 beds. One of Becker’s initial concerns was figuring out how to double those numbers. Ultimately, the hospital was able to triple its number of ventilators.
“It was a lot of work on the front end,” he said.
While a large portion of Becker’s day is still currently focused on coronavirus issues, he’s now looking at the future impact.
“It doesn’t appear that we’re going to have a huge surge in patients,” Becker said. “We now have to begin to [ask], What does normal look like moving forward? We are beginning to now look at surgeries — we stopped doing elective surgeries — but I have to begin to figure out how to take care of people that need surgeries and do it in a safe environment.”
Becker largely attributes Waco’s current avoidance of an extreme surge of coronavirus cases to the proactive work of our community leaders.
“It’s important for everyone to appreciate the leadership from the health department and our government leaders who made some really tough decisions,” he said. “Those decisions have really allowed us to avoid, at least to this point, any real significant level of severe illness in our community.”
Becker is quick to reiterate preventive safety measures should not be forgotten.
“Social distancing is still important, wearing masks … still important, washing hands … still important,” he said. “It’s going to be several months, at least, before we’re out from underneath this issue. It’s not going to be all normal next week. It’s going to take some time.”

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