Mayor’s opening remarks for today’s COVID-19 press conference

Mayor’s Opening Remarks

Transcript with Headers Added

COVID-19 Press Conference, Jan. 20

By Mayor Dillon Meek

I appreciate everyone taking the time to join us. . . .

I’ll talk briefly on hospitalizations. Thank you to our healthcare providers. You are extravagantly serving us and we are thankful.

Hospitals and Doctors

Our local hospital systems, our city staff, our county judge, and myself are in close, regular contact with one another as we discuss and monitor data regarding our hospital capacity and hospital personnel and monitor whether or not there will be a need for an alternative care site. To date, this seems more improbable than probable. 

Our hospitals and our Waco-McLennan County Office of Emergency Management have developed robust plans to keep our population safe should the number of hospital patients increase to a degree of serious alarm.  

Our local doctors continue to advise us of the seriousness of this virus, and I urge our community to also make wise decisions in the days ahead by following these doctors’ calls to wear masks in public, follow safe-distancing protocol, and wash hands. Following this doctor-endorsed protocol makes this situation not fearful.

State Control

As a reminder, at the present time, Texas mayors and local governments have almost no policy-making authority. Gov. Abbot has implemented and has control of the regulations and mandates – from wearing masks to closures of bars to occupancy of requirements of businesses.   The governor has issued an order stating we cannot issue more restrictive orders than him. We have not heard any word from the governor’s office that this might change.

Testing

The Waco-McLennan County Emergency Operations Center is working with the Texas Department of Emergency Management and DOCS Health Testing to provide free COVID-19 testing to the community. When you register online, it does ask for your insurance information. You do not have to have insurance to receive a test. For people with insurance, there is no out-of-pocket cost or co-pay to get the test. Please go to COVIDwaco.com to register.

Temporary Morgue

The  Waco-McLennan County Emergency Management office previously received a refrigerated trailer to be used as a temporary morgue. This refrigerated truck is currently housing 23 remains.

Vaccinations

I will give a brief update on the Health District, which is but one vaccine provider in McLennan County, and then Judge Felton will discuss the other 20 vaccine providers in our county, as well as the vaccination process at the national and state level. (As a reminder, other vaccine providers include HEB, Veterans’ Affairs, CVS, Family Health System, and the hospital systems, as well as the Health District. Our Health District and Providence have both separately been designated as  vaccination hubs.)

The Waco-McLennan County Public Health District is one of the local vaccine providers committed to serving the public and operating with complete transparency and with that I move into my report.   

Today is Day 1 of the second vaccine clinic. We are running the clinic today and tomorrow and distributing the second 1,500 dose allocation that we recently received from the Texas Department of State Health Services.

We have heard the many frustrations with the clinic registration process, and I want you to know that we are listening and we are continually looking at ways to make changes to the process and make it as equitable as possible. I would ask for your patience for our Health District and city staff — they have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic and now through this vaccine distribution process. This is just the second allotment that we have gotten as a function of being one of the state’s 28 vaccine hubs and we made a number of changes to the registration process over the past week.

Some of the things we did differently for the registration process this weekend were to:

— Announce 24 hours ahead of time that appointments would be made available.

— Open up registration at two different times to provide accessibility for those who may work on weekends.

— Reserve a percentage of appointments specifically for people calling because they do not have online access.

Throughout this process we have communicated and worked with area churches, non-profit and social service agencies, and community leaders to try and ensure that our vulnerable populations are not being left out of this process. I thank them for their help.

In the first clinic, about 87% of appointments were made by McLennan County residents. Just over 7% of individuals vaccinated were African American and just under 9% were Hispanic. 88% of individuals were white.

This week, 77% of appointments were made by McLennan County residents. Again, about 7% are African American and just under 14% are Hispanic. 86% are white.

We are committed to evaluating our process and making adjustments to ensure that it is equitable and that everyone will have a fair and equitable opportunity to get this vaccine . 

Ultimately, the 1,500-dose allotment we are getting is nowhere near enough to meet the demand we are seeing within our community. This weekend online registration appointments were full in less than 10 minutes on Sunday and in less than 5 minutes on Monday. In just over a 36-hour period Sunday to Monday, our call center received almost 20,000 calls. We had 8 call-center operators on Sunday and 12 on Monday — these staff were able to answer and speak with 571 callers in less than an hour on Sunday and 491 callers on Monday.

For future clinics, there will not be a registration period like what has been hosted these past two weekends. The Health District has established a wait list for the vaccine. If you have already attempted to sign up for appointments and either signed up for the wait list through the registration portal text number or through the email newsletter you will be on this wait list. We have almost 14,000 people on the wait list, and it continues to grow. 

Beginning today, a wait list registration link is available on COVIDwaco.com or by calling in to the call center at 254-750-1890 for assistance registering. 

The Health District will contact people from this list to fill cancellations and to schedule appointments for future clinics. All vaccinations continue to be by appointment only. There are no walk-ups accepted at the vaccine clinic. 

Thank You

We are excited to continue this vaccination effort in Waco and McLennan County. I would like to thank the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District staff, supporting City of Waco departments, and all of the community partners who have made these clinics possible and thank you for the efforts to date. You are doing important work in our community.

Lastly, I would like to invite our community to tune in to a  COVID-19 vaccine town hall meeting that will take place on Jan. 21, 2021 from 7-8 p.m., featuring Commissioner Patricia Miller as moderator, Dr. Terri Woods-Campbell, Dr. Peaches Henry, Council Member Andrea Barefield, Dr. Jimmy Hunter, and Chet Edwards. This town hall will be available on Channel 10, as well as the Waco City Cable Channel.

Taking a shot in the arm to stop COVID

By Ferrell Foster

Neighbors figure large in human interaction. They give us friendship, help, and encouragement as we face the varied opportunities and challenges of life. And because we care about both ourselves and our neighbors, we get vaccinations.

Tuesday afternoon, I rolled up my sleeve and took a literal shot in the arm. I was one of 424 people vaccinated on the first day of the “first large-scale public COVID-19 vaccination clinic in McLennan County,” as reported by the Waco Tribune-Herald.

Our Waco-McLennan County Public Health District and all others involved in this clinic deserve applause for this beginning. The process was smooth and efficient — in and out pretty quickly. Volunteers from McLennan Community College’s nursing program and Waco’s Family Health Center, plus the Waco Fire Department, ran the clinic. 

I arrived 15 minutes early for my Tuesday afternoon appointment, went through the various steps, and received my shot promptly and on time. After the shot, I waited the required 15 minutes before leaving. Eighteen hours later, I have had no reaction to the shot other than a sore arm reminiscent of the shingles vaccine I received a couple of years ago.

The clinic will give 1,500 vaccinations by appointment this week (already booked up), but this is just the beginning. My age got me into this group, and it was good to see other Wacoans taking advantage of the opportunity.

I am concerned that people with little or no Internet access are at a big disadvantage when appointments are made online, but I hope our health district is working for ways to connect with this important part of our community — maybe with some appointments being made through community organizations, rather than online.

Large-scale vaccination is not an easy job, but we have started, and that is good for the health, education, jobs, business, entertainment, and government. Let’s keep #WacoSafe.

Ferrell Foster is acting executive director of Act Locally Waco. He also is senior content specialist for care and communication with Prosper Waco.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Surviving COVID-19 and the Holidays

By Dr. Peaches Henry

As predicted by infectious disease experts in the summer, coronavirus infections are now surging across the nation during the winter and holiday period.  COVID-19 hospitalizations in McLennan County hit a record on Monday, November 24, and local health officials said that warnings about Thanksgiving gatherings must be taken seriously.  If not, the McLennan County’s medical capacity could be strained in the weeks afterwards.  The scientists of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are pleading with Americans to avoid traveling for Thanksgiving and to celebrate only with members of our immediate households.  Put starkly, spend Thanksgiving with family; spend Christmas in the ICU. 

Facing these dire consequences, many of us have decided to forego our traditional holiday celebrations to try to stem the spread of the coronavirus.  My own family, stretched across several Texas cities and involved in various conditions of employment including completely working from home, working hybridly, and working face-to-face all dealing with students, has decided to forego a face-to-face Thanksgiving this year.

Though I am disappointed not to be with my family, I wanted to reach out to others to offer some ways that we are trying to get through this time.  Let’s face it.  We might have to spend Christmas separated as well.  We might as well prepare for the entire holiday season—Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, all of them. These are safe activities that are good for our emotional and mental health that abide by the recommendations of the CDC and local doctors.

Be grateful.

  1. If you are reading this blog, be thankful.  Though 2020 has been unprecedented in so many ways, we still have much to be thankful for.  Count your blessings.  Since it is 2020, count up to twenty blessings.  Go ahead and count twenty more, because it’s 2020.

Reach out to others.

Though apart, we are in this season together. Some people suffer from depression during this season even when we are not in a worldwide pandemic, so you can imagine how down they are feeling now.  We know that giving to others helps build resilience and diminishes some of the isolation many are suffering.  Therefore, it is important to be purposeful about reaching out to people and making them feel part of the community.

  1. How about that new neighbor who just moved in?  Write a note of welcome with your phone number for emergencies. Or that family whose children have been learning remotely for weeks?  Leave a puzzle or a card game on the front porch. 
  2. Give poinsettias to several of your neighbors. 
  3. Deliver a meal to someone you know will be alone for the holidays.  Bake cookies and let your children deliver them to neighbors (remember, contact free!).  This is one of the CDC recommended substitute activities.

Find new ways to observe your family’s traditions. 

  1. One of the activities I miss most is cooking and chatting with family the night before the big day, especially with my mom (now gone to heaven) “suggesting” that I add more of this or that ingredient. This year I’m cooking and chatting with my sister via Zoom.
  2. Among my family’s time-honored traditions is playing board games.  From Connect Four to Monopoly to Bible Trivial Pursuit to Trouble to Uno to Jenga to Sorry to Scrabble, we play them all.  To say that we play games is a milquetoast description of what my family has done over the years.  We play ferocious, competitive, winner-take-all games.  We game out which games we are going to play weeks ahead.  We pick our teams with winning in mind—my late mom, the Sunday School superintendent, for Bible Trivial Pursuit; my son, the strategizing law student, for Monopoly; my brother, the sports fanatic and movie enthusiast, for Trivial Pursuit; and me, the English professor, for Scrabble.  Good sportsmanship is a must:  winners and losers must shake hands and smile at the end of the game.  My sister and I still crack up remembering the grimaces that passed for smiles when we were children.  Then we gloat all year till the next holiday (really for years).  The family still gives me grief for not remembering Robert Ludlum as the author of the Bourne Identity which would have won the game for the girls in 2006! Argh!  So how will my family replace this tradition when we will not be together?  We are still going to play games.  We are going to harness the power of technology—Zoom, Facetime, Google Hangouts, etc.  One game we are going to play is the #Hashtag.  This will advantage millennials and GenXers, but I plan to get one on my team.  Whatever your family’s tradition is, find a new way to celebrate it.
  3. Enjoy watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade while you prepare dinner?  The full 2019 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is on YouTube.
  4. Watch your favorite holiday specials together on Zoom.  “A Charlie Brown Christmas” will air free on PBS on December 13.  One, two, three, click!
  5. Put “the game” on at everyone’s house and watch it “together.”
  6. Sing Christmas carols together via Zoom.

Bring back old traditions. 

  1. A Christmas card arriving via the USPS in a mailbox would lift the spirits of someone who is spending the holiday alone and away from family.  Writing the cards together as a family over cookies and milk or tea could create some great family moments.  The benefits of a paper card is that it can be hung up in a barracks, stuck to a refrigerator, or placed on a desk.

Create new traditions. 

  1. Plug your charger into your phones and have a conversation with a group of friends or family members.  This can easily be done via Zoom, but if folks are tired of Zoom, everyone can kick back on couches and chat.  We play a conversation game called “Favorite” at dinner parties that is easily transferable to a phone conversation.  It works for all ages and leads to great conversations and reveals surprising tidbits about players.  Sample topics:  What is your favorite childhood television show?  Dark Shadows, anyone?  What is your favorite book?  Favorite mystery? Favorite car?  Favorite animal?
  2. Have a drive-by parade for sick-n-shut-ins at your church.

Put on your favorite soundtrack.

  1. A good soundtrack can make any situation bearable.  Put yours on and dance the night away.  Take your pick of music streaming platforms:  Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music.
  2. Go a step further and dance.  Use YouTube videos to learn the steps to line dances.  The Electric Slide (old school favorite), the Wobble, the Cupid Shuffle, the Cotton Eyed Joe.  Dancing is a much more enjoyable way of getting those endorphins going than running.

Breathe, relax, release.

  1. Embrace the fact that you don’t have to cook a twelve-course meal for twenty family members plus that family of six who will show up without notice.
  2. Be happy that Uncle Blank won’t be at the table to ask uncomfortable questions.  Do give him a call though.
  3. Go to bed early the night before Thanksgiving Day.  Better, get up late on Thanksgiving Day.
  4. Put your holiday decorations up early.  My neighbors seem to already have decided to do this.  Lights lift the spirits.  My family usually waits till Christmas Eve to go see the lights.  This year, I’m going early.

Bonus:  Have hope and faith!

  1. Know that we will get through this time.  History is our witness.  The world got through the 1918 flu pandemic.  We will get through the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.

Peaches Henry is the president of the Waco NAACP and an English professor at McLennan Community College.  She will be spending Thanksgiving with her best friend and black Lab Samson and Christmas with her son Corey and Samson.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected]for more information.

Increased costs due to Covid, Cuts in federal and state funding may force reduced services at Meals on Wheels

By Christine Perera

As a part-time resident assistant at an assisted living facility in my hometown of Boerne (TX), I have the pleasure of getting to know senior citizens. While at school, I look forward to summers spent reconnecting with residents at The Heritage Place. When I entered the facility this summer, however, things were different. Instead of a warm welcoming, all the residents were tucked away in their rooms. Social distancing policies made interactions between residents scarce and reconnection a luxury that many assisted living facilities can no longer afford.

Since COVID-19 broke out, everyone has made sacrifices. At the living facility, residents sacrificed communal dining experiences for meals taken in lonely rooms. I have helped with delivering such meals to residents, and there is one instance my mind often revisits. I pushed an old busser cart filled with trays of homemade tomato soup, and the tangy, comforting scent followed me down the long, carpeted hall. When I arrived at the first door, I balanced a tray in my arms and, as one hand lifted to knock on the door, the tray began to slip from the other. Hot soup spilled all over the floor, causing me to jump back in surprise. Luckily, I knew the kitchen had a large pot of soup on the stove. I didn’t bat an eye as I mopped up the mess and headed back to the kitchen for another bowl. Instead, I took comfort in knowing that such a small mistake could happen to anyone. As I learned more about senior hunger, this very thought developed into a source of worry.

Many people do not have the means to access another bowl of soup when they need it. My experience as an intern for the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty showed me that sometimes accidents, like dropping food, cause senior citizens with already limited food access to go hungry. Being unable to physically get more food can also have long-term health consequences.

Amidst the global pandemic, obstacles to food accessibility have become a larger problem than normal. This is especially true for home-bound senior citizens, who face new difficulties in accessing food due to the virus. While stay-at-home orders keep COVID-19 in check, they can also make trips to the grocery store a frightful task for those at increased risk of contracting severe cases of COVID-19. Because of the high risks, caring for vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, is more important than ever before.

Meals on Wheels is a food aid program that delivers nutritious meals to senior citizens. The program also helps look after the in-home safety of participants, connect participants with their communities, and increase socialization. According to Debbie King, Executive Director of Meals on Wheels in Waco, volunteers are sometimes the only people participants interact with all day. While delivering meals, volunteers chat with seniors and take note of health issues they believe might indicate severe or life-threatening conditions. These health issues are then reported to worried family members, who may live far away and be unable to check on their loved ones themselves.

According to the More Than A Meal Comprehensive Network Study, in-home health assessments (safety checks), social opportunity, and nutritional access make Meals on Wheels an invaluable program. Many families take comfort in knowing they can rely on Meals on Wheels volunteers during these unprecedented times. Additionally, those who cannot afford care at a senior facility can receive aid at a fraction of the private and/or public cost. For reference, the average cost of board at a senior facility is $57,000/year, in comparison to Meals on Wheels participation, which costs the organization roughly $2,000/year per person (based on Texas data). Unfortunately, due to decreased funding and increased demand, Meals on Wheels in Waco may soon be unable to support all its participants.

Meal on Wheels is supported by federal and state grant programs. The recent elimination of federal grants that once funded Meals on Wheels have made program budgets tighten. A statement from Meals on Wheels America President and CEO Ellie Hollander revealed that among cut grants are the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG), Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and Social Services Block Grant (SSBG).

Texans Feeding Texans is a grant that Waco’s Meals on Wheels chapter relies on, and Texans Feeding Texans is also at risk of losing funding. Texans Feeding Texans is a state grant funded by the Texas Department of Agriculture. The Texas State Department recently decreased the Texas Department of Agriculture’s budget by 5%, creating a loss of up to $1,400,000 during the current biennium. This budget cut means there is less money available to fund grant programs. When the Texas legislature evaluates the Texans Feeding Texans grant in 2021, the program risks reduced funding if not enough people advocate for it.

Meals on Wheels in Waco is also supported by local funders and volunteers. Many local healthcare providers and non-profit organizations sustain Meals on Wheels through fundraising and donations. Volunteers play a key role in getting the meals to Meals on Wheels participants. Because of COVID-19, people may feel reluctant to physically help their community members. Additionally, limited funds have presented obstacles in delivering meals to all program participants. Whereas the Waco chapter used to deliver food daily, King stated that local volunteers now visit with participants 3-5 times per week.

Since COVID-19 broke out in February, Meals on Wheels in Waco has experienced a 20% increase in participants. The national Meals on Wheels program had a 47% increase in participants since March. The program has spent more than originally planned to ensure meals are made and delivered per CDC health guidelines. To compensate for the unpredictability of food resources, King explained that Meals on Wheels in Waco also increased portion sizes by 30%. The extra costs of such care-inspired decisions and limited funds have increased net costs of delivering meals by 97% (according to a national Meals on Wheels Pulse survey). If the net costs of delivering meals remains so high, Meals on Wheels chapters may be unable to reach all participants at the same time that participants are more reliant on food accessibility assistance than ever.

The Waco community cannot afford to be complacent about senior hunger. Wacoans have a duty to get involved with our community so programs like Meals on Wheels get the funding and support they deserve. There are many ways you can get involved. Stay informed about local, state, and federal government and call your representatives to advocate for program funding through grants such as Texans Feeding Texans. Make time to deliver meals to vulnerable community members. Donate money to your local Meals on Wheels chapter to help senior citizens get the food they need. These actions will allow Meals on Wheels to access much needed supplies, deliver more meals, and conduct more safety checks. Please visit www.mealsonwheelsamerica.org (national organization) and www.mowwaco.org (Waco chapter) to contribute to or learn more about the Meals on Wheels program.


Christine Perera is a senior at Baylor University. She is an intern for the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty. Christine is majoring in Professional Writing/Rhetoric and minoring in Philosophy. In her free time, she loves to read and take long walks with her dog.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected]for more information.


Notes:

  • Hollander, Ellie. STATEMENT ON PRESIDENT’S FISCAL YEAR 2020 BUDGET, 2019, www.mealsonwheelsamerica.org/learn-more/national/press-room/news/2019/03/11/statement-on-president-s-fiscal-year-2020-budget.
  • King, Debbie. “Texans Feeding Texans.” Meals on Wheels Waco. 30 Sept. 2020, Online meeting.
  • Meals on Wheels America. “A Story of Meals on Wheels in Communities Across the Country Study Summary.” More Than a Meal Comprehensive Network Study, 2019.
  • NEW SURVEY DATA: MEALS ON WHEELS NATIONAL NETWORK CONTINUES TO FACE UNPRECEDENTED DEMAND AND RISING COSTS DUE TO COVID-19, 2020, www.mealsonwheelsamerica.org/learn-more/national/press-room/news/2020/08/12/new-survey-data-meals-on-wheels-national-network-continues-to-face-unprecedented-demand-and-rising-costs-due-to-covid-19.
  • Perera, Christine S, and Debbie King. “Conversation About Meals on Wheels.” 29 Sept. 2020.

Waco leaders stress safe practices & flu shots


By Ferrell Foster

Five Waco civic, health, and school leaders Wednesday encouraged the people of Greater Waco to think of their neighbors and to be careful how they are involved in gatherings and celebrate the Labor Day weekend. They also stressed the importance of getting a flu shot.

With the holiday coming and football season upon us, Mayor Kyle Deaver asked residents to do these activities “smartly and safely” so the community can remain open. “Take care of yourself and take care of each other.” He made the comments during the weekly City of Waco News Conference related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jerry Maze, executive director for Education Service Center Region 12, noted, “What happens in the community shows up in the schools,” and that can be both good and bad. “If everyone works together and makes good decisions, we get better outcomes.”

Dr. Brian Becker, of Ascension Providence Hospital, called special attention to the holiday weekend, noting that following standard safety procedures is important for our public health and to our neighbors.

Dr. Marc Elieson, of Baylor Scott & White-HIllcrest, also spoke to the importance of wearing face masks, distancing, and proper hand hygiene. ”Be wise,” he said.

A number of questions were asked about schools and Baylor. For students, “it’s so much more about what’s happening off campus,” Mayor Deaver said. “We know this is hard; it’s trying for everyone, … but it’s the way we keep schools open and having football” and other activities.

Dr. Jackson Griggs, of the Family Health Center, praised the efforts of Baylor University to test and then isolate students exposed to COVID-19. “I’m impressed with efforts by Baylor to mitigate the risk.”

Current hospitalizations are down some, but the hospital representatives said their in-patient numbers usually lag behind case counts by about a week. And case counts have been rising in McLennan County.

The current “Effective Reproduction Rate” for McLennan County is 1.07, Mayor Deaver said. Anything above 1 means the disease is expanding, not contracting. The Rt is a measure of contagiousness or how many people one COVID-19 person infects.

In his closing remarks, Dr. Griggs highlighted the importance of bringing down the positivity rate. In recent weeks that rate has hovered just under 15% in McLennan County, which is above the state rate. More testing helps identify people with COVID-19 and also lowers the positivity rate. “Anyone with subtle symptoms needs to come in and be tested,” Dr. Griggs said. The first step is to contact your primary care physician.

The head of Family Health Center also emphasized the importance of flu vaccinations. “We need to keep flu rates down this season,” Dr. Griggs said. There’s a lot we don’t know about flu and COVID-19 infections in the same person. “Flu vaccines are imperative.”

It is especially important to promote the flu vaccines in “communities of color” because they have been particularly hard hit by COVID-19 and have “historically lower vaccination rates.” 

The news conference is aired at 1:30 p.m. each Wednesday at WCCC-TV for the public to view.

Ferrell Foster is senior content specialist for care and communication for Prosper Waco. He also serves on the Act Locally Waco Board of Directors and helps the website with blog posts related to health, education, financial security, and equity.

COVID-19 vs. The Flu

By Kayla Gilchrist

Oftentimes, many people confuse COVID-19 and its risks with influenza (flu), believing they are relatively the same.

“It’s not that serious; it’s just like the flu.”

“Why can’t they find a seasonal vaccine for coronavirus like they did for the flu?”

“I’ve had the flu before so I’m pretty sure I can handle COVID-19.”

Although both COVID-19 and the flu share similar characteristics, such as both being contagious respiratory illnesses, they are caused by separate viruses which bring about some vital differences.

Coronaviruses are found in both humans and animals causing mild to moderate respiratory issues. COVID-19 is caused by a completely new coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2, which causes a more severe illness. The flu is caused by influenza viruses — completely different strands of viruses than coronaviruses.

From: Waco Family Health Center

Due to some of the symptoms of the flu and COVID-19 being similar, it can be difficult to tell the difference without testing to confirm a proper diagnosis. Because COVID-19 comes from an entirely new strand of virus (SARS-CoV-2), we are learning more and more everyday.

Given the best and most updated information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, below are some key differences and similarities between COVID-19 and influenza.

Similarities

1. Common symptoms shared by both COVID-19 and the flu which range from asymptomatic (no symptoms) to severe are:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle pain or body aches
  • Headache
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults

2. For both the flu and COVID-19, one or more days can pass before an infected person starts to experience signs of illness or symptoms.

3. It’s possible to spread both viruses up to 24 hours before showing any symptoms.

4. Both can spread between people within about 6 feet or from person-to-person contact through droplets made when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. These droplets can reach the mouth, nose, or be inhaled into the lungs of someone nearby an infected person. Both viruses can also spread through physical touch (e.g. shaking hands) or by people touching infected surfaces then touching their face.

5. Both COVID-19 and flu pose the highest risk to:

  • Older adults
  • People with certain underlying medical conditions
  • Pregnant women

6. Both COVID-19 and flu can cause these complications:

  • Pneumonia
  • Respiratory failure
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome (i.e. fluid in lungs)
  • Sepsis
  • Cardiac injury (e.g. heart attacks and stroke)
  • Multiple-organ failure (respiratory failure, kidney failure, shock)
  • Worsening of chronic medical conditions (involving the lungs, heart, nervous system or diabetes)
  • Inflammation of the heart, brain or muscle tissues
  • Secondary bacterial infections (i.e. infections that occur in people who have already been infected with flu or COVID-19)

7. Anyone with a high-risk of complications and/or who have been hospitalized for COVID-19 or flu should receive proper medical care.

8. Any and all vaccinations for COVID-19 and flu must be approved or authorized for emergency use (EUA) by the FDA.

Differences

1. If you have COVID-19, it could take longer to develop symptoms than if you have the flu — up to 14 days after infection. A person with the flu usually develops signs and symptoms anywhere from one to four days after infection. Unlike the flu, with COVID-19 you may also experience a change in or loss of taste or smell as part of your symptoms.

2. If you have COVID-19, you might be contagious longer than if you have the flu. Most people with the flu are contagious up to 7 days while those with COVID-19 can remain contagious up to 10 days.

3. COVID-19 is believed to be more contagious. It’s been observed to spread quicker and more easily to a wider range of people than the flu.

4. Children are more at risk for complications from the flu than from COVID-19, however the CDC states that “both infants and children with underlying medical conditions are at increased risk for both flu and COVID-19.”

5. School-aged children pose a higher risk of a rare but severe complication of COVID-19 called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MISC).

6. Those with the flu will most likely recover in less than two weeks unless they develop complications, whereas recovering from COVID-19 could take up to two weeks and even longer should complications develop.

7. The flu has FDA-approved influenza antiviral drugs to treat it and multiple vaccines produced annually for prevention. Studies, including a study on an antiviral agent called Remdesivir, which is available under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), are still in progress on how to prevent and treat COVID-19. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) developed a regularly updated guide on treatment of COVID-19 here https://www.covid19treatmentguidelines.nih.gov

Here are resources to use for what to do if you are sick with COVID-19 or the flu and how to prevent them:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/steps-when-sick.html

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/treatment/takingcare.htm

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/index.html

Sources: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/flu-vs-covid19.htm

https://www.ynhhs.org/patient-care/urgent-care/flu-or-coronavirus

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus

Kayla Gilchrist is an adventure-seeking, fun-loving, Christ-oriented, twenty-something with an extensive background in media and a knack for writing. She received her bachelor’s in communications with a minor in theatre arts from Prairie View A&M University. When she isn’t writing or managing social media accounts, Kayla enjoys acting, directing short films, delicious food, poetry, swimming, novels, and spending time with family and friends. She happily just joined the City of Waco team and is excited to use her skills as a helpful resource during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.

Back-to-school affects us all — we are connected

By Wendy Cox

When my family lived in another country and found ourselves suddenly functioning in a language and culture unknown to us, daily activities formerly done with unconscious ease became laborious, requiring more cognitive effort than I could have imagined would ever be reasonable. We relied on the patience, kindness, and practical help of friends. Through them, the burdens became bearable, even joyful, as our initial dependence created conditions in which mutually beneficial relationships were strengthened over time. 

Since March, COVID-19 has put us in a similar circumstance. Risk-benefit decisions about daily life, formerly made unconsciously, suddenly came to dominate my waking (and sometimes sleeping) hours. I had to think through each one in light of the viral news of the day. 

Should I risk another grocery trip in hopes of finding toilet paper? 

Should I let my teens have a picnic with friends? 

Should we or shouldn’t we visit my in-laws? 

And the more sobering decisions — 

How do we do family funerals? 

How do we care for loved ones who are in the hospital? 

And now administrators, teachers, families, and children are facing all manner of risk-benefit decisions as the fall semester approaches. 

Whether you are directly involved in back-to-school decisions or not, every one of us has a stake in how this effort goes. That’s the nature of coronavirus. It spreads through the community, between people with and without symptoms, to people with low risk of illness and death and those who are at great risk. 

These categories are not always apparent to us, and we likely won’t be able to “see” the outcome of our actions. We know that children can have COVID-19, that some develop symptoms, and that a few cases can be severe. We don’t yet know how infectious children are to others, but we do understand that community-wide prevalence influences case counts within schools and vice versa. 

Alongside all of us who care about schools and teachers and students, it is imperative that you join our entire community in acting on what research has taught us about suppressing the spread of coronavirus. In addition to wearing masks, practicing good hygiene, and staying safely distanced, I propose we go a step further and find creative ways that lie within our skills and resources to make it easier for everyone to follow through with safety guidelines. Here are some ideas to consider:

Masks — Masks decrease viral spread making them beneficial to the wearer and everyone else. The more mask-wearers in the room, the safer everyone is. Deciding to wear a cloth face covering is the baseline. Some people want to choose the very best material (see Best Household Materials for a Mask, scroll down on page), but within reason, the best mask is the one people can tolerate wearing when they need to. Be patient with children (or yourself!) until you find the right one. 

If you wear glasses, you know how they tend to get foggy while wearing a mask. Share this and other ideas to help reduce the fog and make mask-wearing more pleasant (How to Prevent Glasses from Fogging Up While Wearing a Mask). 

Expect children to soil, lose, and forget masks during the school day. Could you volunteer to keep a laundered stash of cloth masks available in your child’s classroom? Recently, I encountered a friend and her soon-to-be kindergartener shopping for treats so her daughter could practice wearing a mask. How kind. We can all practice modeling such a generous attitude toward mask-wearing (and it does take practice!)

Outdoor Activities — Being outdoors is considered to be safer than being indoors. Is there anything you can do to make this idea appealing to your child’s teachers? Maybe you have time to volunteer as an aide to help keep children on task. Maybe you don’t have time, but you have money. Consider purchasing a class set of outdoor chairs (Folding Chair, Portable Lap Desk). Maybe you have skills. Could you volunteer time to help schools create shade structures or plant trees? 

These suggestions are obviously incomplete, but they encourage a way of thinking that considers communal efforts and outcomes along with our more individual concerns. With a community mindset, we may find joy and stronger relational ties along the way. I could use more of both in my life right now. 

I promise to act in ways that protect you and your family members’ health, even though we might never meet. Will you do the same for me? 

Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)

from Lynn Ungar’s poem “Pandemic”

Wendy Cox

Wendy Cox is a long-time educator who followed her interests into the public health field. She is proud to work alongside colleagues at the Family Health Center in the area of community health engagement. In her spare time, she loves to enjoy time in nature, take long walks with family and friends, and experiment in the kitchen with whatever seasonal foods she’s found at the Waco Downtown Farmers Market.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected]for more information.

Library and Parks & Rec re-opening

By Brayley Payne

After a long season of quarantine through the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Waco is finally re-opening its doors. This includes restaurants, coffee shops, and other Waco favorites — the Waco-McLennan County Library and various Parks and Recreation services in the Waco area.

The library, at all four locations, is set to open Monday, June 15. The hours will be limited, Monday through Friday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.. Visitors will be able to browse like usual and check out items. While there will be browsing, there will be no public seating in the library at this point.

“We are taking this phased approach because the situation is fluid and plans need to be flexible so we can make changes as information becomes available,” said Library Director Essy Day.

Social distancing will be encouraged throughout the libraries. The computers will also be six feet apart, and time will be limited to one hour per day for each user. After a user leaves, the staff will clean the computer area. The library recommends using the outdoor drop when returning items in order to effectively quarantine the previously checked-out items. Visitors are encouraged to wear face masks.

Waco Parks and Recreation has created modified programs for the summer, but they will still be fun! The RECess! summer program has already begun, and it aims to provide a fun alternative to the camps that have been canceled due to COVID-19. This program will be virtual for daily, at-home activities. Check the department’s Facebook page each day for updates.

The department’s outdoor pavilions, indoor facilities, and park areas are now available for rental! On June 15, Bledsoe-Miller, Dewey, and South Waco community centers will reopen. The new hours will be: Monday-Thursday 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Friday 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.; and Saturday 9 a.m. – 3 p.m..

June 15 is also the start date for organized sports and competitions on city property and in city facilities. Riverbend Park will reopen for games and use on June 15, as well. Waco Mammoth National Monument has opened its trail and picnic area for use. The dig shelter tours, however, are still on hold to reopen, and park buildings will remain closed for the time being.

Brayley Payne is an Act Locally Waco intern from Denver. She’s studying professional writing and religion at Baylor University and entering her senior year. She has worked in the Baylor University Writing Center the last two years.

From Zoom rehearsal to stage, Waco’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ to premiere

By Trent Sutton

“All the world’s a stage.”

Though we aren’t performing those particular words of Shakespeare in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, those words have truly been put to the test as we have prepared this performance. 

Wild Imaginings had planned to launch our Summer Shakespeare series this summer anticipating it being a big community event that would become annual fare for years to come. Much like the rest of the world, all of those plans were brought into serious question in the midst of the rise of COVID-19. 

We felt, however, that we ought to press ahead, even in the face of uncertainty. We’re an arts organization after all, and limitations are nothing more than creative boundaries.

With this in mind, we held auditions for the show via Zoom and proceeded to have rehearsals for the show via Zoom. I can’t say it’s something I recommend. I think we all got really tired of one another’s faces on our computer screens. But despite the fact that we couldn’t plan our movement for the show, we worked through the script as best we could while online. 

And truly, through this process, we have discovered that all the world is indeed a stage. Even virtually speaking. Sometimes we came together not just from different homes but from different cities and even different states. And all the while, we prepared, we worked through the text, we developed our characters, and when it was finally safe to rehearse in person, we dove in head-first, ready to put it all together. And in just a couple short weeks, we have had to transfer everything we learned via Zoom to the real in-person world. 

The third commitment which Wild Imaginings holds in its value statement is “cultivating a willingness to explore, experiment, and otherwise push the boundaries of what performing arts can be and the impact they can have on the community.” And you know, the world in which we currently find ourselves has put that commitment to the test.

We have explored the depths to which we can connect through online platforms; we have experimented with different ways of rehearsing and learning together; and we continue to push the boundaries of what performing arts can be, as we figure out ways to move from Zoom to my living room to finally Common Grounds. 

And as far as impact on the community goes, we hope that this will be every bit the community event that we hoped it would be, albeit with smaller numbers of people. We are fully committed to the safety of our audience, which is why we’ll be working with Common Grounds to limit seating per state guidelines.

So to help navigate this challenge, we’ve decided to record a performance so that people can buy “tickets” to the recording. 

Our goal from the beginning in launching this Summer Shakespeare production has been to make it accessible to anyone who wants to come. We believe ART IS FOR EVERYONE. In our efforts to maintain this desire, we want to be sure it remains accessible, even for those who may not yet be comfortable venturing out. 

We cannot wait to share this with the Waco community. A Midsummer Night’s Dream has been such fun to work on, despite the challenges we faced. I’ve had the privilege of working with an amazing cast, and I hope you’ll take the opportunity to see them perform, because it’s definitely worth it. 

Love triangles, angry fathers, fairy magic, mischief, and even a play within a play (I think that’s called playception). This is a Shakespearean work of art that you’re going to want to make sure is a part of your summer.

Tickets can be found at http://wildimaginingswaco.com/shakespeare/.

And even if you can’t make it, you can purchase a “ticket” to the video recording when we have it or else just make a donation. We need your help to make Summer Shakespeare something that we can share with the Waco community for years to come.

Trent Sutton is founder and artistic director of Wild Imaginings, a newly formed performing arts nonprofit here in Waco. He has recently graduated from Truett Seminary with his Master of Divinity and has already made Waco his home. He is passionate about the arts and believes them to be the best way in which he can contribute to the city he has grown to love so much. He believes Wild Imaginings is uniquely positioned to truly bring a different flavor of art to Waco, and he is excited for what this new adventure will bring. His desire is that this community be limited only by the scope of their imaginations. His favorite thing is sharing dreams and ideas and working together to bring them to life. So don’t hesitate to reach out.

Demonstration health and safety precautions from Dr. Neumann

(From Waco’s COVID-19 Community Newsletter)

As the Central Texas community participates in demonstrations and protests against the killing of George Floyd and continued racial injustice and inequity, community leaders encourage health and safety precautions for group gatherings. Dr. Iliana Neumann of Family Health Center shares a few health tips for community members participating in protests and demonstrations.   

We encourage organizers to provide masks and hand sanitizer to the extent they can and to model the use of such as well as practice physical distancing as much as possible. 

  • Assembling does increase your risk of contracting COVID-19, but there are things you can do to lessen this risk.
  • Gather outside rather than inside.
  • Wear a cloth face covering.
  • Physically distance as much as possible.
  • Do not share signs or markers with anyone who is not a member of your household.
  • Take hand sanitizer and gloves with you. Use hand sanitizer often.
  • If distributing materials, encourage folks to take a picture of the materials with their phone instead of handing off paper or other items.
  • Bring water and drink it often.
  • Wear sunscreen.
  • Reduce respiratory droplets by focusing on signs/posters and making noise with music, drums, etc. rather than loud talking.
  • Carry identification and a list of emergency contacts.
  • Go with a buddy and stay closer to them rather than new contacts.

Dr. Iliana Neumann is a family medicine specialist. She graduated with honors from East Carolina University School Of Medicine in 2009. She is a faculty physician with Waco’s Family Health Center.