Construction & hospitality job training courses set for summer

By Tiffany Gallegos Whitley

June has been a busy month recruiting for UpSkill Waco summer training. I’m excited to have Heaven Lee, our new UpSkill Waco coordinator, onboard the team to help with training coordination and recruitment. 

We are actively seeking participants for the next “Construction Core” training with Texas State Technical College July 12 and a new “Hospitality Fundamentals” course with McLennan Community College July 19. In addition to these courses, a healthcare training course is in the works for early August. 

The summer classes will be during the day, with evening courses planned for late summer/early fall. 

We are working to build a variety of scheduling options and rotating training locations around neighborhood locations to ensure we are fulfilling UpSkill Waco’s purpose of providing flexible and accessible workforce training around the county. 

Scholarships are still available for individuals who cannot afford training costs. The applications for training and scholarships can be found on UpSkill Waco’s website at upskill-waco.org. We are looking for 12 students for Construction Core and 16 for Hospitality Fundamentals, so please help us get the word out! Please reach out to tgallegos@prosperwaco.org with any questions. 

Tiffany Gallegos Whitley is director of workforce initiatives for 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 ferrell@prosperwaco.org.

Mothers need more than flowers, jewelry, cards

By Tiffiney Gray

As we celebrated Mother’s Day recently, I was filled with excitement and so much appreciation for my generous, intelligent, and amazingly patient mother and mentor, Brenda Gray. I’m also thankful to be a mom to two incredible young daughters, and it’s a true delight to celebrate my friends who are also on this remarkable “mommyhood” journey. (I call it “mommyhood” because Olivia – my 19-month-old – sings “Mommy!” at least 500 times every day. I can see my fellow moms nodding their heads right now!)

Unfortunately, that joy is often tempered as I reckon with a harsh reality for women in Texas: Thousands of new moms celebrate Mother’s Day knowing they lack access to lifesaving, postpartum physical and mental health care. 

Currently, Texas women enrolled in Medicaid for Pregnant Women – women in families at up to 200% of the Federal Poverty Line (FPL), or with income of $2,290/month – lose that coverage 60 days after giving birth, and only those at 14% FPL (about $251 in income per month for a family of three with two parents) can extend Medicaid coverage. 

In fact, between 2016 and 2018, there were an estimated 105,000 uninsured new mothers living in Texas. That means 105,000 new moms left vulnerable to life-threatening complications and health conditions that may occur within the first year postpartum.

I worry about the mom who has an infection. The mom who has a dangerously high spike in blood pressure. The mom who needs emergency surgery. The mom who finally suspects she has postpartum depression … on day 70. I worry about these moms. And I worry about their sweet babies. 

  • The Texas Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Review Committee found that nine out of 10 pregnancy-related deaths were preventable, and one-third of maternal deaths occurred 43 days to one year after pregnancy.
  • The physiological strains that pregnancy puts on the body can exacerbate and have lingering effects on other unrelated (non-reproductive) systems that put a mom’s health at risk. 
  • The most common pregnancy-related and childbirth-related causes of death are cardiovascular diseases, excessive bleeding (or hemorrhage), infection, and cerebrovascular incidents (stroke), mental health needs, and other heart issues, which require specialty care and complex treatments.
  • While 20% of postpartum health care spending occurs within the first 60 days, a whopping 70% of postpartum costs occur after 90 days within the first year after giving birth. This spending is on infrequent but urgent services like surgeries and hospitalizations. 

Fortunately, there is hope! On April 14, the Texas House passed House Bill 133 – a bill that extends Medicaid eligibility for pregnant women from 60 days to 12 months after giving birth. This means that new moms are able to keep their health insurance for a full year after pregnancy, and it’s a key step toward preventing maternal deaths, addressing postpartum depression, and supporting healthy moms and babies. In fact, the Texas Maternal Mortality Review Committee’s number one recommendation to improve maternal health in Texas is “that health care coverage be extended to 12 months postpartum to help identify and properly manage health conditions before they become life-threatening.” 

Extending postpartum Medicaid will save women’s lives. It will allow access to comprehensive healthcare services; strong and established physician provider networks; and critical services like surgery, emergency room visits, and hospitalizations. 

Some contend that existing state programs – such as Healthy Texas Women (HTW) and Healthy Texas Women Plus (HTW+) – meet the same postpartum needs as Medicaid. HTW+ even includes some provisions for screening and treatment of chronic conditions (like diabetes and high blood pressure) and postpartum depression. But the services available to moms with HTW and HTW+ are limited in scope and just don’t measure up as adequate alternatives to the health insurance that Medicaid offers.

New mothers desperately need access to the full range of healthcare services that Medicaid makes possible. And new babies need care and nurturing from moms who are at their healthiest — their survival and development depend on it. 

House Bill 133 passed with tremendous bi-partisan support in the House but is currently stalled in the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services. Which leads me to ask the question…

Why aren’t we more motivated to ensure healthcare for new moms? 

Fellow moms, think about how vulnerable you felt your first six weeks, 12 weeks … even six months after giving birth. Grandmothers, do you remember helping your adult daughters navigate those first three months with a newborn? It’s hard. It’s scary. It requires tremendous emotional and hands-on support from family. It is not the moment to pull the rug out from under new mothers most in need of societal support. 

One thing that has become abundantly clear during the year of COVID is that mothers are, in fact, the foundation of our society and economy. Mothers with means. Mothers in poverty. Married moms. Single moms. Working moms. Stay-at-home moms. 

Mothers watchfully nurture infants, keep them alive and healthy, and take on the task of developing resilient, self-sufficient people who grow up to become contributing adults. The least we can do is support healthcare legislation that improves the chances of survivability for new moms who need a little more help.

I want a few things for Mother’s Day this year. Healthy, thriving daughters. The laughter and delight of family and friends. And I wouldn’t turn down breakfast in bed. But it’s time to put more than flowers, jewelry, and cards in our Mother’s Day baskets. It’s time to enact legislation that tells every new mom in Texas that she is respected enough to support her full physical, psychological, and emotional recovery from bringing a new baby into this world.

Tiffiney Gray is senior content specialist for health initiatives 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 ferrell@prosperwaco.org.

We all win when women win

By Dexter Hall

As we approach Mother’s Day, my mother Mrs. Mildred Y. Hall has weighed heavy on my heart. I lost my mother on Sept. 3, 2019, and not a day has gone by that something has not reminded me of her.

Mildred Y. Hall and her son, Dexter Hall

My mother was a fiercely independent woman who raised five kids and worked her entire life until her health failed. As a kid I knew she worked a lot and sometimes held two jobs. Because of her job(s) she wasn’t always able to make it to my school events. While it was disappointing, as an adult doing financial security work in our community, I have an even better understanding of “WHY.”

The pandemic has been a force to be reckoned with across numerous fronts. This beast has shined light on many disparities in our community, including those impacting women, as it did my mother.

I was deeply troubled when the January unemployment numbers showed 346,000 members of our American community had filed for unemployment. I became more troubled and saddened when I learned 80% or 246,000 of those who had filed were women. February-November 2020 statistics show 5.3 million women have lost their jobs compared to 4.6 million men. 

These numbers alone are startling by themselves but are compounded by gender/ethnicity pay gaps. 

According to a study by J.P. Morgan Chase on Racial Gaps in Financial Outcomes, “Black women (like my mother) face the greatest gap in take-home income and liquid assets compared to White men, but racial gaps are larger among men than women.”

Women of color and especially Black women have been disproportionately affected by this pandemic.

Working women have now lost more than three decades of labor force gains in less than a year, as reported in the new issue of Fortune. The ongoing employment crisis, which is closely aligned with a widespread caregiving crisis, has especially hurt the women of color who disproportionately work in restaurants, retail, education, health care, and other “essential” industries. These workers, who are often paid very low wages, rarely have the option of working remotely and trying to schedule their paid work around remote learning and other childcare responsibilities.

My mother would say she has known this to be true long before a pandemic.

Having less costs more – especially for those trying to invest in their own education. Black graduates with bachelor’s and associate’s degrees carry 13% and 26% more student debt than their White peers. They also get paid less, earning 27% and 14% less for the same degrees.

Thasunda Brown Duckett, CEO of Chase Consumer Banking at JPMorgan Chase, says we must move beyond the “ingrained perception that talking about money and race is taboo, and that financial hardship results simply from bad personal decisions. . . . It also requires moving beyond a culture with the prevailing ideology that success comes simply from individual responsibility.”

While my mother was not the CEO of a bank, she certainly managed what she had while working two jobs and raising a family like she was the leader of one. I salute my mother, Mrs. Mildred Y. Hall and the fight she instilled in me to fight for our community and ensure an inclusive economy for all.

When women win, we all win! Happy Mother’s Day.

Prosper Waco welcomes you to join us in the fight for an inclusive economy for women and everyone. Please contact me for opportunities to assist at Dexter@prosperwaco.org.

Dexter Hall is chief of staff and senior content specialist for financial security 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 ferrell@prosperwaco.org.

Waco Police supported in addressing social determinants

By Telawna Kirbie

It is my pleasure to introduce a new program in our community called Waco Connect. This community-based program is a joint venture of both Prosper Waco and the Heart of Texas Region MHMR Center.

Social Determinants of Health

Our goal is to provide social care coordination to community members to promote physical and mental health with a focus on resources that address the “Social Determinants of Health” (SDoH). The World Health Organization defines SDoH as “the conditions in which we are born, grow, live, work and age.” 

The determinants include, but are not limited to, housing, financial stability, employment, education, transportation, both physical and psychological safety, as well as various social needs. By improving SDoH, we have the ability to directly impact the overall physical and mental health of our community. 

An early phase of Waco Connect is a collaboration with the Waco Police Department that is being sponsored by the City of Waco. Waco Connect will support community members who have underlying mental health needs that lead to frequent law enforcement contacts. Waco Connect staff will complete a needs assessment, assist the community member in identifying goals, link them to resources, and offer ongoing support for up to one year. A main objective of this program is to reduce law enforcement contacts, emergency department visits, and mental health crises that require hospitalization. 

When we help meet the needs of those who are struggling, we all benefit. Mental health crises have implications that start with an individual and ripple out to affect all levels of our communities. As Waco Connect works to link our community members to resources and assist them in accessing services that promote mental health, we will be addressing individual needs that will hopefully lead to improvements in physical health, mental health, and overall quality of life. By avoiding more costly interventions such as law enforcement involvement, emergency department visits, and inpatient hospitalizations, we will have increased access to already limited resources. 

Waco Connect is looking to launch this phase of the program in June of this year.

Telawna Kirbie is director of behavioral health initiatives 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 ferrell@prosperwaco.org.

SummerFest, April 10, to highlight opportunities for students

By Hermann Pereira

In this pandemic and most recently the snow-apocalypse of 2021 we have felt more disconnected. This has truly affected our youth, who are accustomed to being in school face to face everyday along with having the ability to participate in other extracurricular activities. Time away from school is having academic and social emotional impact on youth of all ages. 

The good news is we are getting back to normal as the vaccine has come into the picture and people are feeling more safe. I would like to share an event that is coming up that will give students an opportunity to feel connected. 

Two of our working groups (School Focused Wrap Around Services Working Group and the Informal Learning Working Group) have come together to plan what will be a way for all students to have access and feel connected to summer activities. 

Student Success SummerFest will be 9 a.m.-1 p.m. April 10 and will be in partnership with the Waco Downtown Farmers Market. There will be vendors from all over the community that offer summer activities for youth. Families will be invited to visit with the different vendors and will have an opportunity to sign up on site for camps. 

Working groups are a vehicle for community members to come together to collaborate in order to serve a larger purpose. Our working groups are focused on overall student success. They consist of the Early Childhood Committee, Informal Learning Working Group, Mentor Waco Coalition, School Focused Wrap Around Services Working Group, Education, Workforce and Talent Alliance, and the McLennan County College Access Network. 

All of our working groups are open to anyone in the community interested in working hard for all students in our area. Please email me at hermann@prosperwaco.org, and I can connect you to one of these groups. We hope to talk to you soon. 

Hermann Pereira is chief program officer 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 ferrell@prosperwaco.org.

Vaccines are the new toilet paper

By Suzii Paynter March

Everybody needs it and there is not enough. Rumors fly, promises of millions are made, but national news notwithstanding, it’s only the local supply that matters. The city, the county, medical providers, pharmacies, hubs, hospitals are all at the ready… and ready… and ready. Could somebody turn on the spigot? Vaccine production, running water? It is a frustratingly bleak reminder that the systems we put in place matter. 

When it comes to Waco and the meager amounts of vaccine we are being sent from Texas State Health Services, I’m wondering, “Is the State of Texas Health data up to date? Do they know Waco-McLennan has grown in the past 5 years? Is our dose allocation up to date? Or are they using 10-year-old Census data to determine the number of vaccine doses we need?” I mean, can people in Austin count?

Good people are working hard, but they are pioneers forging a way through the we-have-never-had-a-pandemic underbrush, not motorists driving down a well-travelled Interstate highway of frozen medicine delivery. 

Remember the fits and starts that riddled Katrina response? The unintended health consequences for first responders from 911? Things got better when subsequent hurricanes hit, and new protections are now in place for first responders. As a nation we are not slow learners, and I take comfort in believing that we are able to learn and adapt. 

Back to bathroom tissue. Last March the run on the tissue aisle at HEB meant they draped the aisle to hide the poor stock boys so they could get product to the shelves, pull down the draping and then scurry off the floor to safety before the rush of shoppers. There was an early morning hour set aside for elderly  shoppers and other experimental measures employed by stores to try to meet demand and spread the essential tissue widely. 

If you are 1b, are you calling and emailing every place you can think of?  I am. Back in November I was prepared to wait patiently until April for my vaccine because I thought none was available…. THEN we were told vaccine was available for 1b NOW. Then I shifted from patient patient to eager patient, urgently looking for my dose! 

I sincerely believe the spigot will come on and vaccines will be available. Waco has a system for delivery through public hubs and private sources, and there are many places and populations that need support. The need is going to get bigger and bigger, and we have to plan and build for tomorrow as well as today. 

So my pledge is that even while I am anxious for my dose, I can still be a part of the build out –  I can call, volunteer, organize my workplace, my family, keep up to date and help my friends get connected, too. The city needs volunteers as vaccinators, as paperwork and crowd management volunteers, and as ambassadors for various neighborhoods and in various congregations and pockets of the community. Call the city number to help: 254-750-1890.

Suzii Paynter March is chief executive officer of Prosper Waco, our community’s collective impact initiative. She is a graduate of Baylor University, with a lifetime of experience in organizational leadership and public advocacy.

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 ferrell@prosperwaco.org.

New workforce initiative launched at Prosper Waco; Gallegos Whitley leading

By Ferrell Foster

WACO — Prosper Waco has begun an effort called UpSkill Waco to promote coordination of workforce initiatives in Greater Waco and to provide scholarship funding for residents, particularly those impacted by COVID-19, to gain needed training or re-skilling for high-demand occupations.

Cooper Foundation is funding the effort, which will be led by Tiffany Gallegos Whitley, Prosper Waco’s new director of workforce initiatives. She will continue in her role as chair of Waco Employer Resource Network (WERN), a working group of higher education, community organizations, and employers involved in workforce development and employee retention.

Tiffany Gallegos Whitley

The goal of UpSkill Waco is to train local residents to improve their work skills in a manner that matches local job needs and to do so using a cost-effective model. 

“Working toward this goal takes coordination,” said Hermann Pereira, Prosper Waco’s senior education and workforce specialist. “Prosper Waco has met with City Council members, existing leaders of businesses in five sectors, the three Chambers of Commerce, instructors from MCC & TSTC training programs in five areas, Goodwill industries, City of Waco services and local organizers with roots in neighborhoods. Prosper Waco has gotten commitment from these entities to create an aligned system of services to provide workforce training at a reasonable cost for Waco.” 

Gallegos Whitley said the initiative is particularly focused on persons about age 18-24 who have a high school diploma but no post-high school education or training. Unemployment rates are highest among this group, she said. 

“My role was created to coordinate multiple stakeholders across the city and county to move the needle on workforce initiatives,” said Gallegos Whitley. The effort will focus on increasing the capacity of current workforce training, filling gaps in training, and providing equitable career paths to help people move into family-sustaining careers.

Prosper Waco CEO Suzii Paynter March said: “Successful workforce initiatives are based on education, training, and relevance to industry needs. Tiffany and Hermann are a talented staff team combining strengths in education and workforce success. Waco will benefit from the teamwork.”

Cooper Foundation Executive Director Felicia Goodman said: “Cooper Foundation is committed to making Waco a better and more desirable community in which to live. An important part of any healthy community is having job opportunities and trained persons to serve in those jobs. This workforce initiative will help both the people and businesses of Waco.”

The project is yet another outgrowth of the 2014 Upjohn economic development plan presented to the city. “We are building off of the Upjohn report and going beyond,” said Gallegos Whitley. “We are staying current with new data.”

“Upjohn has influenced all that we have done with workforce development in recent years, giving us a north star to guide our efforts,” Pereira said. “In this newest stage we are investing in the goals of other organizations involved in the effort.”

Gallegos Whitley has called Waco home for the past 12 years. She is a two-time Baylor University graduate, receiving a bachelor’s degree in international studies and a Master of Social Work degree. Between undergraduate studies and graduate school, Gallegos Whitley worked with the Texas Hunger Initiative, helping communities organize around food security issues. She became passionate about community development and decided to root herself in Waco.

Prior to joining Prosper Waco, Gallegos Whitley worked 5½ years with Heart of Texas Goodwill Industries, where she oversaw building strategic community and business partnerships to further Goodwill’s job training and education programs. During her time at Goodwill, she also helped implement the Waco Employer Resource Network, a national model of skills training and job retention for incumbent workers.

In her role with Prosper Waco, Gallegos Whitley will oversee workforce projects that bring together key stakeholders to collaborate and continue building equitable training and career pathways for all McLennan County residents.

Ferrell Foster is senior content specialist for care and communication with Prosper Waco.

Prosper Waco takes on Homeless Management Information System

Press release – The City of Waco has contracted with Prosper Waco to administer the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), which is the federally funded program to track homeless populations and to understand their needs.

Prosper Waco will provide data management and a reporting system for participating providers serving Greater Waco’s homeless and low-income population with a variety of services.

“We are proud to begin this new responsibility to provide data coordination for the City of Waco,” said Suzii Paynter March, CEO of Prosper Waco. “We have experience and expertise in handling data but do not provide direct social services.”

“Prosper Waco is a data driven organization and is equipped to oversee the HMIS administrator position. We are confident in the work they have provided within the community and excited to partner with them to assist in data collection for the City of Waco, “said Raynesha Hudnell, Community Services Interim Director.

The Heart of Texas Homeless Coalition uses HMIS to coordinate data upon entry into services, track services provided to people who are experiencing housing instability. This includes people who are “couch surfing,” need rental assistance, live in a shelter, or have no shelter.

Prosper Waco’s Sammy Salazar, community data specialist and HMIS administrator, will manage the day-to-day operations of HMIS. Contact Salazar at HMIS@prosperwaco.org for technical assistance related to HMIS.

One aspect of the Homeless Coalition’s work is the annual Point-in-Time (PIT) count. The 2020 figures revealed 234 people in Waco with housing instability. Prosper Waco will support the PIT count by the coalition and its partners in January.

Homeless services through a variety of providers are funded by private donations, foundations, and the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development. The local continuum of care consists of six counties (Bosque, Hill, Falls, Freestone, Limestone, and McLennan).

City of Waco Launches Free Financial Service to Help Residents Tackle COVID-19 Financial Challenges

Press Release – In partnership with national nonprofit organization the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund (CFE Fund), the City of Waco has announced the launch of a free Financial Navigators program to help residents navigate financial issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic in conjunction with community partners: Heart of Texas Goodwill Industries, the Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Grassroots Community Development.

Financial Navigators will be available beginning August 24th to provide guidance over the phone to help residents access available programs and services to manage income disruptions and other financial concerns they may be experiencing at no cost. With one-on-one discussions, they will help to address personal financial issues, identify immediate steps to manage expenses and maximize income, and make referrals to other services such as bill paying assistance, receiving government services and finding food and childcare assistance. The City of Waco will offer these Financial Navigator services in partnership with Prosper Waco.

Council Member John Kinnaird explains, “We know that our citizens are struggling, and in this environment where stress is high and keeping track of all available resources is difficult at best, being able to provide a comprehensive and helpful resource like the Financial Navigators is invaluable. Being able to get those in our community to the help and resources they need in an effective and timely manner is critical to the overall health and well-being of our residents, and this program will greatly help us achieve that goal.”

To access services, residents can visit: finnav.org/interest-waco and fill out a short form, or they can call (254) 753-7337 to sign up. They will then be contacted to begin their personal session. Organizations across Waco can also refer clients directly to a financial navigator. *Information will also be available at covidwaco.com under Community Resources.

The Financial Navigators program is funded in partnership with the CFE Fund, who provided grant funding along with significant technical assistance and training to launch the program. This initiative is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the CitiFoundation, JPMorgan Chase & Co., and the Wells Fargo Foundation.


“Financial distress is a primary part of the COVID-19 crisis, and we’re pleased the Waco City Council has made this a priority for their residents,” said Jonathan Mintz, President and CEO of the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund. “The Financial Navigators program will help Waco residents assess and prioritize their financial concerns and get connected with the correct resources.”

“Communities across the country continue to face significant economic challenges as a result of COVID-19,” said Brandee McHale, Head of Citi Community Investing and Development and President of the Citi Foundation. “To provide residents in the City of Waco with the vital financial tools and support necessary to navigate the financial impacts of the pandemic, the Citi Foundation is proud to partner once again with the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund to launch the Financial Navigators program.”

“The pandemic has clearly heightened awareness around the financial hardships that so many people were already facing here in Waco and deep disparities that exist in society,” said Darlene Goins, head of financial health philanthropy with the Wells Fargo Foundation.  “We applaud the CFE Fund for bringing together the City of Waco, philanthropists, and financial services and other industries to reimagine solutions that can help improve financial stability and resiliency for individuals and families, particularly during this economic crisis.”


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.