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Most coronavirus patients recover, still anxiety, fear loom

SEATTLE — Amid all the fears, quarantines and stockpiling of food, it has been easy to ignore the fact that more than 60,000 people have recovered from the coronavirus spreading around the globe.

The disease can cause varying degrees of illness and is especially troublesome for older adults and people with existing health problems, who are at risk of severe effects, including pneumonia. But for most of those affected, coronavirus creates only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, with the vast majority recovering from the virus.

According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe ailments may take three to six weeks to rebound. In mainland China, where the virus first exploded, more than 80,000 people have been diagnosed, but more than 60,000 already have recovered.

Because the difference in impact can be so great, global health authorities have the difficult task of alerting the public to the virus’ dangers without creating panic.

Already, the widespread consequences of the virus have been staggering, sending shock waves through the world’s financial markets. Global oil prices sustained their worst percentage losses since the the Gulf War in 1991, and new restrictions were imposed in Italy and in Israel as the Holy Week approached.

But even some of the most vulnerable patients can fight their way through the disease.

Charlie Campbell’s father, 89-year-old Eugene Campbell, has been diagnosed with the coronavirus and is hospitalized in Edmonds, Washington. Charlie Campbell said his father’s doctor is cautiously optimistic, adding, “Under normal circumstances, he would discharge my dad, but these aren’t normal circumstances.”

Eugene Campbell came to the hospital from Life Care Center, a nursing home in Kirkland that has been linked to a large share of the state’s coronavirus deaths.

“We went and saw him yesterday and he looked pretty good,” Campbell said, noting that his father is breathing normally and his vital signs and heart rate are good. “He may be the oldest person to recover from coronavirus.”

In China, Tan Shiyun, a postgraduate student at a university in Wuhan, had traveled to her family home in Yichang over 180 miles away when she began to experience minor symptoms from the virus.

She went to the hospital, where she was given common cold medicine and sent home. It was only after her symptoms persisted and she visited the hospital a second time for an outpatient CT scan and received a call asking her to come back did she understand her symptoms came from something other than the common flu.

After many days and a number of tests, doctors eventually told her that the infection had spread to both of her lungs.

“After that, I felt a heavy head while walking, unable to breathe, and nauseous,” Tan said in a video blog post. But after over two weeks in the hospital, a CT scan showed her infection was disappearing and she was discharged.

For some who’ve been quarantined, anxiety and dread that they will become stigmatized by friends, neighbors and co-workers have equaled their concerns about their physical health. A few patients with the virus who were interviewed by The Associated Press — all of them passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship that ended up quarantined off Japan — described symptoms that were no stronger than a regular cold or flu.

For some who’ve been quarantined, anxiety and dread that they will become stigmatized by friends, neighbors and co-workers have made them reluctant to acknowledge even the most modest health impact. A few patients with the virus who were interviewed by The Associated Press — all of them passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship that ended up quarantined off Japan — described symptoms that were no stronger than a regular cold or flu.

“It’s been a 2 on a scale of 10,” said Carl Goldman, hospitalized in Omaha, Nebraska, since Feb. 17, after developing a 103-degree fever on a chartered flight from Japan to the U.S.

Goldman is staying hydrated with Gatorade. He said he continued coughing more than two weeks after he first got sick, but would probably only have missed one day of work if he had been diagnosed with the cold or flu. He stays active by pacing in his room, trying to match his pre-sickness routine of 10,000 daily steps on the pedometer.

“I totally get this is where I need to be and I need to be cleared of this before I’m released,” he said.

Spring at Silos shuttered

Venders pack up Thursday morning after Magnolia canceled its Spring at the Silos events in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Magnolia Market brought in 80,000 visitors during spring break last year.

Waco introduces mobile response stations as 2020 census kicks off, plans for COVID-19 precautions
 Rhiannon Saegert  / 

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Coronavirus latest: What's happening around Waco

McLennan County stands to lose $15,000 in federal funding over the next decade for every resident who fails to participate in the 2020 census, Waco Mayor Kyle Deaver said Thursday.

Local and U.S. Census Bureau officials gathered to kick off the Waco-area’s participation in the nationwide count that guides allocation of public money, representation in Congress and more.

“This money supports everything from roads, economic development, affordable housing, neighborhood schools, health care, Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, SNAP and 130 other programs,” Deaver said.

The Census Bureau and the local health district are working together to plan for how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect census efforts. Those considerations will become especially important when census employees start visiting households that have not completed the census on their own, he said.

“The way we can best avoid that is to respond right away and not have people have to go out and visit homes to try to collect that census data,” Deaver said.

Residents can complete the census online, by mail or by phone. Invitations to participate were scheduled to start arriving Thursday and continue through next week.

Census workers will start visiting individual households that have not responded in May, and the health district will help workers going door-to-door protect themselves from the coronavirus.

In a new effort to get residents to respond on their own, the city will establish locations where people can drop in and take the census. Those will be in addition to moving “pop-up” locations using 20 tablets the city is renting.

Officials unveiled the tablet stations during Thursday’s press conference, complete with a container of anti-bacterial wipes at the ready at each station.

City Secretary Esmeralda Hudson said the tablets cost $9,000 to rent, and the city will rent more if possible.

“We recently received, last week, a $60,000 grant from the (Communities’ Foundation of Texas’) Texas Counts Pooled Fund that is helping different communities fund our programs and initiatives,” Hudson said. “They’ll be out in the community from March 12 all the way to April 30, and we’re hoping that we can really improve our self-response rate. We’re really grateful for that funding.”

Staff photo — Jerry Larson 

During a press conference Thursday, officials unveiled mobile census-taking stations that will be placed throughout the area in an effort to improve the initial response rate and limit the need for home visits. This is the first decennial census that can be taken online.

Hudson said the anti-bacterial wipes will be available throughout the process.

While the COVID-19 outbreak may require census workers take extra precautions, it also is an example of why an accurate census count is critical on the local level, McLennan County Judge Scott Felton said.

“We don’t know how long it will last,” Felton said of the outbreak. “We know how we deal with it, and our response will be very expensive, not even counting what the disease could possibly do as well. It’s very important that the residents in our area participate in the 2020 census to allow us to access federal funds to allow us to serve them better in the times to come.”

Family Health Center Chief of Staff Fernando Arroyo said census-taking stations will be set up at 14 of the 16 locations where Family Health Center provides health care and works with low-income patients.

“We’re excited about this partnership because we want to make sure that our folks who might be undercounted are counted,” Arroyo said.

Waco-McLennan County libraries, the public health district, community centers, Baylor University’s student center and Texas State Technical College facilities will also serve as census-taking centers. Pop-ups are schedule for Sunday at East Side Market, 400 E. Bridge St.; April 3 at Brazos Nights, Indian Spring Park downtown; and April 24 at Transformation Waco’s Friday Night Lights event at McLane Stadium, 1001 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

This is the first decennial census that can be completed online, and officials expect that option will increase the initial response rate, so long as word gets out and people participate.

“We didn’t have any technology in 2010,” Census Bureau partnership specialist Jennifer Pope said Thursday. “Everything was a paper survey. This is the first time ever we’re able to do a census survey over the internet.

Baylor, McLennan County College, TSTC also are reminding students to take the census.

“A lot of times, college students don’t realize they’re supposed to fill it out,” Fisseler said. “They live here in Waco when they’re in college. It doesn’t matter where they grew up if on April 1, they’re living in Waco.”

The Census Bureau has already started mailing out reminders and personalized census codes for each household, but the census can be completed with only a home address if someone does not have their code handy.

Photos: The latest images from the coronavirus response around the world

Photos: The latest images from the coronavirus response around the world

Staff photo — Rod Aydelotte 

A pair of ball boys sit at the Sprint Center, following the Big 12's announcement that it was canceling its conference tournaments.

Waco, Midway ISDs make plans despite coronavirus concerns
 Brooke Crum  / 

READ UPDATE HERE: Waco ISD, Midway ISD, Connally ISD, La Vega ISD, Lorena ISD, McGregor ISD, Midway ISD, Robinson ISD and West ISD are extending spring break by two weeks, to March 27.

Several more districts are extending the break by one week, to March 20, including Axtell ISD, Bosqueville ISD, China Spring ISD, Bruceville-Eddy ISD, Mart ISD, Moody ISD, Oglesby ISD, Riesel ISD and Valley Mills ISD.  > Read more

NOTE: The story below was published Thursday, March 12 before local officials announced a change of plans Friday, March 13.

While they continue to consult with public health officials about the new coronavirus, some McLennan County school districts are asking families to self-report any recent international travel as they prepare to resume class Monday after spring break.

Midway, La Vega and Lorena independent school districts all have posted forms on their websites, asking families and employees to report any recent international travel to help the districts “monitor the situation.”

Meanwhile, Waco Independent School District, the county’s largest school district with about 15,000 students, has not asked families or employees to self-report but plans to resume class Monday.

“We’re not considering a spring break extension at this time and expect to resume classes as normal Monday morning,” district spokesman Josh Wucher said Thursday. “However, this is a developing situation, and we are working closely with the health department. As new information emerges, we will continue to work with them to assess what it means and whether additional precautions are warranted to help maintain the health and safety of our students and staff.”

La Vega ISD Superintendent Sharon Shields wrote in a letter posted on the district’s website that the schools have not received directives from the Texas Education Agency or any other government entities that recommend or allow the closure of schools when no cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, have been confirmed in McLennan County.

After Shields posted her letter, the University Interscholastic League that organizes Texas high school competitions announced it has postponed state basketball, debate and robotics competitions until further notice. Shields said the district would be reviewing its participation in any other voluntary events.

Thursday night, TEA sent updated guidance to school districts, instructing them to communicate with their local public health officials, encourage and practice good hygiene procedures, communicate regularly with their communities and “actively engage in contingency planning for the possibility of extended school closures.”

The agency’s guidance states districts should consult with local health districts on closure decisions.

“TEA does not have the general authority to close schools for matters related to health,” according to the guidance. “This authority lies with the local health authority, Department of State Health Services, and the Governor of Texas.”

Midway ISD spokeswoman Traci Marlin said the district is actively monitoring the area in the event a local case of COVID-19 arises, while communicating ways families can protect themselves from the coronavirus online and via campus correspondence. But the district will ramp up its response if a local case is confirmed in the county or in the district, canceling class if necessary.

“Administrators have been corresponding and monitoring during spring break and staying alert to all guidance from TEA, as well as health officials,” Marlin said. “Our custodians have been hard at work for cleaning over the break, as well.”

The district also has suspended attendance incentives, she said. For example, students with perfect attendance generally are exempt from final exams in high school.

At the least, students will return to extremely clean facilities after spring break. Lorena ISD and other school districts have used spring break to sanitize and “deep clean” all facilities and school buses.

Online maps steer viewers to Waco art, history
 Carl Hoover  / 

To anyone who has seen an outdoor sculpture, mural or public work of art while passing through Waco and wondered if there are more: There is now a map for that, online and interactive.

Actually, two maps with both available on the website of arts nonprofit Creative Waco. One is a public art map that provides locations for almost 60 murals, sculptures and fountains. The other provides location and background information for the 28 works on the recently completed Sculpture Zoo in and outside Cameron Park.

Three Waco-area high school friends — Midway High School seniors Callum Longenecker and Laith Altarabishi and Waco High School junior Kathryn Brooks — created the public art map, not as a school project, but more as a challenge with community usefulness the end result.

After hearing his mother, Fiona Bond, executive director of Creative Waco, wishing for a way to connect Waco residents with the city’s public art, Longenecker decided to see if he and his friends could do it.

“I was amazed that no one had come up with a way to spread awareness of local art,” he said. “It was more of a need that needed filling.”

For Longenecker and Altarabishi, the appeal lay in creating a website that could be integrated into Creative Waco’s current site and interface with Google Maps. Brooks handled the project’s writing end, collecting information from artists and other sources where possible and doing her own research.

They started in August before classes began, and the two site designers, conversant in HTML and CSS, found the hardest part at the beginning.

“We started out being pretty ambitious, thinking of building one from scratch and writing code for all of it,” Longenecker said.

Staff photo — Rod Aydelotte, file 

A jogger and cyclist make their way past Trevor O’Tool’s “Wise Elephant” sculpture, located near the entrance to Cameron Park. It and more than two dozen other animal sculptures are part of a new Creative Waco page on the Sculpture Zoo along University Parks Drive.

That proved “ridiculously tedious,” Altarabishi said. So they opted to adapt some existing interactive maps to work with Creative Waco’s website.

“We found a plug-in that worked and after that, it was easy,” Altarabishi said.

Brooks, meanwhile, was researching and writing entries for each of the locations plotted on the map: 10 sculptures, 39 murals, three fountains and the six street art pieces French artist Blek le Rat painted during a Waco visit.

With years of school essays under her belt, the writing part was not hard, but finding information on some of the memorials and murals was, she said.

The public art site went live last week, as did the Sculpture Zoo one. The latter features a web page for each of the zoo sculptures with information on the artist, the artwork, the animal portrayed, a locator map and a video clip from the donors underwriting the sculpture.

Creative Waco marketing director Kennedy Sam said the interactive guide was a collaboration among Creative Waco, the city, the Cameron Park Zoo, donors and the artists with web design by Jeffrey Cannon.

The two art sites join an online guide and phone app to places reflecting Waco’s history, created and maintained by Baylor University’s Institute for Oral History and the Texas Collection.

Though pleased at how their interactive map came out, the students behind it are moving on. The two seniors will start studies at the University of Texas at Austin in the fall, Longenecker studying computer science with an eye to artificial intelligence, Altarabishi studying electrical engineering. Brooks has her senior year ahead and is aiming at studies in psychology.