100 doses of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine administered to SAISD faculty, staff members

STAAMP Allergy administered the vaccines Tuesday morning

This story was originally published by KSAT12 and can be found here.

 

100 SAISD employees vaccinated against COVID-19, kicking off local effort to immunize school staff

District leaders said they hope to have employees vaccinated by the end of May.

This story was originally published by Kens5 and can be found here.

SAN ANTONIO — More than 4.5 million Texans have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, and due to a recent announcement by the Biden administration, teachers and other school staff are now eligible to be immunized.

Those efforts are underway this week, as San Antonio ISD partnered with South Texas Allergy and Asthma Professionals (STAAMP) to vaccinate 100 employees on Tuesday.

Michael Rodriguez in an electrician with the district and was one of the dozens who received a prick in his arm.

“It’s very important so that I don’t get sick and I don’t infect others,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said his days consist of traveling to different campuses and coming in contact with many different people.

“We’re around kids, teachers, and we just want to make sure everyone is safe and healthy,” he said.

The vaccines made up the first shipment of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine that STAAMP has received.

“We’re happy to be able to have that service for them to help protect our some of our true first line heroes that are out there,” said Erika Gonzalez, CEO and president of STAAMP.

Gonzalez said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine – which consists of just one dose, unlike the Pfizer and Moderna options – has a 100% protection rate from death, according to studies.

“That’s really what the point is here, to save lives,” Gonzalez said. “The Johnson & Johnson (vaccine) is just as good as the other two vaccines. So, to the teachers out there – not just from the SAISD district, but from everywhere – we are thankful for you guys being out there, putting your lives on the line.”

SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez said the district has around 40% of students receiving in-classroom instruction.

“We know that we need more,” said Martinez. “We have many children that are remote right now, that are struggling, and parents are worried. So is our staff.”

The district partnered with Community Labs a few months ago to administer rapid COVID-19 testing to students and staff.

“We’re one of the few districts in the country that offers that to our students and our staff, and that really reduces the anxiety,” Martinez said. “What scares them the most is the unknown.”

Martinez said the partnership with STAAMP marks the beginning of the effort to get local teachers, school staff and child care workers vaccinated.

He said around 25% of district staff has already received their vaccine.

The 100 employees who received the vaccine on Tuesday work at high schools, because many are still working doing extra-curricular activities and other events.

They also selected support and maintenance staff like Rodriguez who are continuing duties through Spring Break.

“We’re going to be planning with STAAMP and other partners to try to get all of our staff done,” said Martinez.  “My hope is that we get them done by no later than mid-May.”

As for Rodriguez, he hopes his colleagues will get their vaccine when it’s available to them.

“It’s better to be safe than sorry, and we’ve already seen what sorry means,” he said.  “(There’s) so many that we’ve lost already.”

COVID-19 fatigue showing in Bexar County

Texas MedClinic doctor says weddings and family dinners are behind cases he’s seeing

SAN ANTONIO – As the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, local doctors say “COVID fatigue” is real as residents get sick, not of the coronavirus but of dealing with it.

“’You know, ‘I’ve had it up to here, and I’m not doing it anymore,’” said Texas MedClinic Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Gude, who said he has seen people going to more events they may have avoided earlier on in the pandemic.

While this past weekend saw supporters of both President-elect Joe Biden and President Donald Trump gather across the country, including in South Texas, it’s not big events that are currently sending patients to Gude’s chain of urgent care clinics. Instead, he says, it’s events like family dinners and weddings.

“Last week, I was seeing several people who went to a wedding,” Gude said. “There were five people so far that had tested positive because the wedding had been put off in May, and they just didn’t want to have to put it off any longer. So they had the wedding, and now multiple people are ill.”

Despite instances like this, Bexar County case numbers remained relatively low until Monday since the large wave of cases this summer. Meanwhile, the U.S. as a whole, has been hitting record highs for new cases in the past week.

Dr. Erika Gonzalez, the president and CEO of South Texas Allergy and Asthma Medical Professionals, thinks the local infection rate may play a role in local perceptions.

“You know, luckily, we did see the rate of infection kind of steady here in San Antonio. So I think that that also made people kind of get a false sense of security that, ‘Hey, you know what? Maybe this thing is over,” Gonzalez said.

Gude agreed that the relatively low stats might provide a false sense of security, and he does not believe the numbers would hold.

“I don’t think that it’s because we have a shield on,” Gude said, regarding Bexar County’s previously low case numbers. “I think it’s just that we live in an environment that we can be outside, and we can get our social milieu by being outside. But once we have to move indoors, I’m still concerned that we’re going to see significant spikes.”

President Trump’s COVID-19 comments draw reaction from San Antonio coronavirus survivors, loved ones

‘It’s careless to put it mildly,’ says daughter who lost her mother

This story was originally published by KSAT12 and can be found here

SAN ANTONIO – “Don’t be afraid of Covid,” and similar recent statements made by President Donald Trump, despite his coronavirus diagnosis, were considered “careless, to put it mildly,” by Dr. Erika Gonzalez, who lost her mother to the virus in September.

Gonzalez said her father, who is dealing with the death of his wife of 51 years, is home from the hospital but relies on a tracheotomy to help him breathe because of COVID-19.

“I think that, obviously, my mom’s perspective would be you should be very afraid of the virus,” Gonzalez said.

The president and CEO of South Texas Allergy and Asthma Medical Professionals said it should be “a healthy fear, but definitely not disregard the true damage that this virus can do.”

Ron Wilkins, a noted musician and kidney transplant recipient who was finally released from the hospital in the summer after testing positive for the virus, said, “It’s not nearly as touch-and-go as it used to be.”

Wilkins is teaching trombone again at Texas State University.

“I’m more mobile and more able, but I still deal with a few aches and pains I didn’t have before,” he said. “Mentally, you know, there’s at times I’ll have these little gaps still in the thought process.”

Wilkins said he considers President Trump’s statements “a travesty.”

He said the President should tell the people who’ve already died, their friends and families, and those still suffering from COVID-19, “Don’t let it dominate your life.”

Gordon Hartman, the philanthropist and founder of Morgan’s Wonderland, said he was among the luckier ones.

Hartman said he was never hospitalized but was diagnosed with a “moderate” case of COVID-19. He later donated convalescent plasma to help others.

“I had an incredibly bad headache. I had chills, fever, coughs, a lot of typical things you hear that come with COVID,” he said. “It stuck around pretty aggressively.”

Hartman said one of the plumbers helping build Morgan Wonderland’s Camp died from COVID-19 despite being a 49-year-old man with no known health conditions.

“So to say that we can ‘look the other way’ or that ‘we’re past this’ or ‘don’t let it take control of your life,’ I would say is something that has to be definitely heard with much caution,” Hartman said. “It’s something that does need to be taken very seriously.”

Esperanza Hall residents to receive monthly COVID-19 tests

This story was originally published by The Mesquite (TAMUSA) and can be found here

Students living at Texas A&M University-San Antonio will receive monthly COVID-19 tests. Provided by the A&M System, 700 tests per month will be administered without cost to Esperanza Hall dorm residents.

Located in portable 101B behind the Central Academic Building and open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday – Friday, the administering of tests is overseen by STAAMP Allergy, a local service provider, while Curative Inc., a Los Angeles national testing company, provides confidential results.

According to Dr. Mari Fuentes-Martin, vice president of Student Success and Engagement, with over 100 dorm residents tested, the decision to require monthly tests was made the final week of August starting the 26th after the number of COVID-19 tests provided to the university was verified the second week of school.

The university wasn’t sure of how severe COVID-19 was going to be or how many tests they were being provided when school opened up. Fuentes-Martin said because of this uncertainty, wellness stations were set up to take the temperatures of new residents moving in.

“The reason we’re very interested in that population is that they spend 24/7 together, unlike a classroom,” Fuentes-Martin said. “…You’re just in such close proximity to each other for a very extended amount of time, so we wanted to be extraordinarily careful.”

Though there have been zero positive cases among dorm residents, the university already has accommodations in place for Esperanza Hall residents who test positive.

Positive residents will be moved to an isolated apartment and asked to quarantine in place, while those potentially exposed to them are tested and quarantined for at least 48 hours.

Fuentes-Martin says A&M-San Antonio’s main goal is to provide the safest environment possible through preventative measures. To develop these measures, A&M-San Antonio partnered with American Campus Communities, the operators of Esperanza Hall, to find the best way to approach the situation.

“We looked at their safety protocols, we looked at their signage, and we were able to blend a lot of those things and expectations that we had for safety with what they also had,” Fuentes-Martin said.

Education freshman Paige Borenheim started living in the dorms at the beginning of the fall 2020 semester and is witnessing the effects of COVID-19 on Esperanza Hall firsthand. Masks are needed on short trips outside rooms and visitors aren’t allowed; doorknobs and handrails are cleaned systematically and elevators have limited capacity.

While Borenheim has a roommate, she says most dorm residents don’t because many potential residents canceled their plans to move in.

“I know a lot of people who have no one to hang out with or they’re kind of just actually isolated with no one,” Borenheim said.

Along with these changes comes the monthly COVID-19 testing requirement.

“I have mixed feelings on it because obviously it takes a lot out of your day to go get tested,” Borenheim said. “I got tested a week ago, and they sent us an email the day before we had to get tested like, ‘by the way, you have to get tested every month.’ So there was a long line of 30-plus people in the hot sun for an hour plus.”

Borenheim says she now has conflicting feelings about how the process is currently being handled.

“I do like it,” Borenheim said. ”I know they’re trying to make sure no one’s contracting the virus or anything but at the same time it’s kind of like, I wish there was a better way to go on with it.”

Fuentes-Martin said she wants students to know that A&M–San Antonio is adapting and that the university has services to help deal with COVID-19 which can be found at https://www.tamusa.edu/community-safety-together/index.html

“If you need a laptop, or if you need Wi-Fi…The library’s open, advising is open, you know, so we’re here to help students,” Fuentes-Martin said. “We don’t want you all to think that we’re invisibly not here. We are here.”

This story was updated at 5:49 p.m. Sept. 11 to correct “Stamp” to “STAAMP Allergy” and to explain that Curative Inc. provides confidential results.

A mother’s death from COVID-19 leaves Hispanic Chamber leader ‘powerless’ but determined to help others

This story was originally published by San Antonio Report and can be found here

Dr. Erika Gonzalez is a mother and a military veteran, a community leader on the rise, a practitioner in and owner of an allergy practice with three locations in San Antonio.

But the coronavirus outbreak has proved unsparing and, on Wednesday, Gonzalez will join her two sisters in reciting the rosary before laying to rest their mother, Laura Gonzalez, who died Aug. 13 from complications of COVID-19. She was 69.

Her death came despite the precautions she took to keep from contracting the virus and efforts by her physician daughter, her family, and the doctors to save her. Having connections to the medical community and knowledge of the health care system were not enough.

“You can bet that we did everything we could, no stone left unturned, no connection that I didn’t try to use,” Gonzalez said. “We were powerless.”

Now Gonzalez is keeping a watchful eye on her 80-year-old father, Heriberto, who is still hospitalized with the virus but appears to be recovering.

The couple fell ill within days of one another in mid-July. Unlike many victims of the virus, Laura’s symptoms did not include fever, a cough, body aches, or shortness of breath – the most common signs of coronavirus.

Only when she couldn’t eat due to persistent nausea and vomiting – and Laura’s daughters worried their mother could become dehydrated – was she diagnosed and hospitalized. By then, her blood oxygen levels were dangerously low even though she was not complaining of shortness of breath. Heriberto’s hospitalization followed a day later.

Within the week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added nausea and vomiting to the list of coronavirus symptoms, Gonzalez said.

Remembering a mother

Gonzalez describes Laura as the strongest woman she knows. As a young wife and mother who learned English watching daytime TV, Laura returned briefly to her home in Mexico to attend dental school, then rejoined her husband in the U.S. and started her own practice in a border town.

“I have great memories of going to work with my mom,” Gonzalez said of those years in which the seeds of her own medical career were planted.

But Laura was also devoted to her son with special needs and other medical conditions who required extra care and attention. “Not until I became a mom did I fully realize how hard that must have been to take care of a child with special needs and three other young girls and own a small business,” Gonzalez said. “It’s unbelievable to me, honestly.”

In Laura’s later years, following retirement and the death of their son, she took advantage of every day, especially to travel, Gonzalez said. “She lived it to the fullest and never let anything slow her down.”

But when the coronavirus outbreak began in March, Laura and Heriberto sheltered at home, only venturing out to the grocery store. Gonzalez doesn’t know how her parents contracted the virus.

Family advocates

Laura’s first coronavirus test came back negative but it soon became obvious she needed to be hospitalized.

“Like any other family, my two sisters and I were doing our best to advocate for my parents,” Gonzalez said. “We were in touch with all their physicians either because we knew them personally or knew someone who knew them.”

After her mother was intubated and put on a ventilator, the sisters decided to transfer the couple from a private hospital to Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC). They hoped Laura could receive extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) treatment at BAMC, one of only two local hospitals equipped for such care.

The hospital was also a familiar place for them. Gonzalez had done her fellowship training at BAMC and her sister would soon be working there as a specialty surgeon. It felt like home, she said, and Heriberto, as a veteran and one of the first physician assistants to be trained in the Air Force, and his wife were eligible to receive treatment at BAMC.

“It turned out to be one of the best things we did for them,” she said, though Laura’s condition deteriorated before she was able to receive ECMO treatment.

But as her mother faded, the hospital allowed Gonzalez the chance to be with her mom in her final hours – an opportunity she doesn’t take for granted, since many family members have not been permitted to be present as their loved ones died.

Using her voice

A former military physician and now community leader as chairwoman of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Gonzalez hopes she can help military medical facilities pioneer a solution that allows families like hers to be with their loved ones dying of the virus. “Because we all know that if we’re taking proper precautions that the risk is a lot lower, and I think in situations like that it will just prevent a lot of mental anguish that some of these families go through,” she said.

The pandemic also accelerated her plans for a nonprofit she founded in April. Months before her own parents fell ill, she established Con Corazón San Antonio, an organization that will work to address health inequity and emergency preparedness in underprivileged communities.

Due to the pandemic, the first initiative of Con Corazón is raising awareness about the importance of donating convalescent plasma to help others recover from illnesses such as COVID-19. While her mother was able to receive plasma therapy, Gonzalez believes it could have improved her chances if she’d had it sooner.

“We’re hoping to turn a very tragic moment in my personal life into hopefully seeing some good come out of it and maybe helping somebody else or another family down the road,” she said.

Gonzalez said she chose to serve as the Hispanic chamber’s chairwoman this year to use her voice to support the small business community, especially in health care.

“Never in my mind did I ever imagine that it would take on a whole different meaning with this pandemic,” she said.

But her platform is now more personal than ever. Despite her grief, she is speaking out now in the hopes she can influence how the community responds to the public health crisis.

“People might think that somebody in my position, whether it’s because I’m a doctor, or whether it’s because I’m the chair of the chamber … I can make it better by my knowledge or connections or whatever,” she said. But in this case, she was powerless to change the outcome for her own mother.

When Gonzalez saw her mother’s perplexing symptoms worsen, she said she felt as bewildered and fearful of the virus as the rest of the medical community.

“How does a virus do what I’m seeing?” she said she thought to herself. “It was a very sobering realization.”

‘Death is all around us’ – novel coronavirus deaths concentrated on San Antonio’s South Side, new data shows

This story was originally published by San Antonio Express News and can be found here

‘When we’re full, we’re full’: COVID-19 pushes San Antonio hospitals to the limit

This story was originally published by San Antonio Express News and can be found here

The alarming surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations in San Antonio — where at least one in four new patients has the disease — is growing at a faster rate than in other major Texas cities.

For the last week, the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the trauma-care region that includes San Antonio rose by 55 percent, state health department figures show.

If the surge continues, it could overload the local health care system in the next week or two.

The increase in hospitalizations over the past seven days was 44 percent in the Houston region, 34 percent in the Austin region and 21 percent in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. In Houston, the largest medical center in the world exceeded its normal intensive care capacity Wednesday.

Texas has emerged as a hotbed for the coronavirus pandemic, adding more than 43,000 cases in the past week alone. It was one of the states most aggressive about reopening its economy, but Gov. Greg Abbott has been forced to pause further business reopenings, shutter bars and suspend nonemergency surgeries in hard-hit areas to save resources for COVID-19 patients.

Abbott signed an executive order Thursday requiring nearly all Texans to wear masks in public, a reversal of his order earlier in the pandemic that barred local officials from enforcing their own mask mandates.

The state’s major metropolitan areas aren’t the only communities swamped by COVID-19 patients. Cities across South Texas, which rely on San Antonio as a medical hub, are experiencing some of the highest spikes, painting a dire picture of the stress on hospitals.

In the Corpus Christi area, the state reported last week that just nine intensive care beds were available for a dozen counties with a combined population of more than 600,000 people. Hospitalizations there increased by 100 percent over the past week.

In Laredo, the health department director announced Thursday that hospitals had reached maximum capacity. The next day, government leaders said hospitals in the Rio Grande Valley were full, too.

“If we get to that point, where we truly run out of capacity in our hospitals, it means that we won’t be able to care not just for COVID patients, but we won’t be able to care for patients that we care for all the time — that means patients with heart attacks, or strokes or cancer or trauma,” said Dr. Bryan Alsip, vice president of University Hospital in San Antonio. “When we’re full, we’re full.”

For more than two weeks, San Antonio has experienced some of the fastest COVID-19 case growth in the country, ranking fifth in the U.S. and first among large Texas cities.

One in 10 people who tested positive for the disease since the start of the pandemic in Bexar County has been hospitalized, the Metropolitan Health District reported.

In less than three weeks, the number of patients being treated for COVID-19 in area hospitals has increased more than five-fold — from 176 on June 15 to 1,120 as of Saturday.

There are more COVID-19 patients in San Antonio hospitals now than there are in hospitals in New York, the original epicenter of the pandemic in the United States.

To keep pace with the surge, San Antonio leaders have tapped the state health department and the military to send more than 800 nurses to help staff hospitals. Nearly 180 arrived last week. Seventy more are expected Monday.

Area hospitals are scrambling to add new beds. Recovery rooms normally reserved for surgical patients are being converted into intensive care units. Pediatric intensive care units are being reconfigured to accommodate dozens of adult patients.

Without enough hospital beds or staff, patients could wait hours in emergency rooms before overnight rooms become free.

But hospital leaders say the efforts to rapidly add beds and staff will hit a limit. A disease model developed by Sg2, a health care consulting group, and UT Health San Antonio forecasts 1,800 COVID-19 hospitalizations by mid-July under the best-case scenario.

Initially, that model predicted a worst-case peak of 1,900 hospitalizations in mid-August.

If San Antonians don’t wear masks and continue to spread the disease, the worst-case trajectory now envisions 2,400 hospitalizations around July 21 — more than twice the current patient volume.

“The die is cast probably for the next 11 days. Those folks are infected. They will be coming in,” said Dr. Ian Thompson, CEO of Christus Santa Rosa Hospital-Medical Center. “What you do today will determine what happens two weeks from now — whether you’re in the emergency room with no beds in the inn.”

San Antonio area hospitals had just 647 available staffed beds as of Saturday. The disease model health officials rely on projects that 600 more COVID-19 patients will need hospitalization by next weekend.

Eric Epley, executive director of the Southwest Texas Regional Advisory Council, said hospitals need to create staffed beds “out of thin air” to see San Antonio through the peak. The advisory council, known as STRAC, oversees trauma and emergency care in a 22-county area.

Shiela Sandoval, left, a nurse in one of the four COVID-19 units at Methodist Hospital, talks with Dr. Timothy Osonma about a patient. San Antonio has had a massive influx of coronavirus patients into its hospitals.
Shiela Sandoval, left, a nurse in one of the four COVID-19 units at Methodist Hospital, talks with Dr. Timothy Osonma about a patient. San Antonio has had a massive influx of coronavirus patients into its hospitals.

Bob Owen /San Antonio Express-News

But if the worst-case scenario unfolds and hospitalizations continue to double almost every week, officials will be forced to exercise last-resort options, such as sending patients to specialty hospitals and the 250-bed field hospital at Freeman Coliseum. Eply said San Antonio wasn’t near that point yet.

“The reality is, if you’re in the hospital in the cafeteria in a bed, you still have radiology. You still have respiratory therapy. You still have imaging, lab capability,” Epley said. “You have lots of things that are in the hospital that become much more difficult once you leave the property.”

Catastrophe foretold

Public health experts saw a catastrophe in hospitalizations looming weeks before Metro Health did.

A few days after Memorial Day — and nearly two weeks before then-Metro Health Director Dawn Emerick acknowledged the arrival of a “second wave” of the virus — the Bexar County Medical Society sent a warning to Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff.

“Upon review of local data presented regarding current hospitalizations in the STRAC region due to COVID-19 positive cases, we see a concerning trend developing with an uptick of cases,” said the May 29 letter. “This may be in response to the recent ‘reopening’ of the economy.”

The letter recommended officials keep a close watch on COVID-19 hospitalizations and post a warning indicator on the city website whenever the numbers increase five days in a row.

“They thanked us for the input and passed it along to the appropriate committee,” said Dr. Vince Fonseca, a member of the organization’s board who signed the letter along with two others. “At that time, they were still touting, ‘We flattened the curve, we’re on the downside of the peak,’ and we thought that was incredibly unlikely just by the nature of respiratory pandemics that appear in the spring.”

Fonseca said the society’s concerns largely were dismissed. He believes Metro Health officials were lulled into a false sense of security at a time when they should have been fortifying the city’s defenses, upgrading outdated technology and hiring more case investigators to track the spread of the disease, as recommended by a city-county health transition team.

“We wasted our time,” Fonseca said. “We wasted those weeks. And now we’re scrambling.”

In the weeks that followed, the doctors’ worst fears were realized. Early on in the pandemic, experts had warned that San Antonio, which in 2018 had the highest poverty rate among the nation’s 25 largest metro areas, could be devastated by an uncontrollable outbreak of the virus.

San Antonio for years has been one of the most economically segregated cities in America, where many families live in crowded conditions, with grandparents, parents and young children under one roof.

The poorest residents are more likely to have pre-existing conditions — such as asthma and diabetes — that put them at higher risk if infected with COVID-19. The situation is similar in other South Texas communities, including Corpus Christi, Laredo and cities in the lower Rio Grande Valley, where hospitals are inundated with patients.

Dr. Erika Gonzalez, an allergy and immunology specialist and a board member at CentroMed, a nonprofit health network with clinics throughout Bexar County, said soaring COVID-19 hospitalizations in San Antonio are likely related to the prevalence of underlying medical conditions.

“Asthma rates here in San Antonio, we’re about 400 percent higher than the rest of the state as far as asthma exacerbations and asthma hospitalizations. It’s dramatic,” she said. “It’s not an environmental thing because we all have similar air quality. It’s something more internal, and a lot of it has to do with access to health care, and we’re seeing it mostly in the Latino and African American community.”

Latinos make up about 60 percent of Bexar County’s population but account for about 74 percent of COVID-19 infections. Black residents no longer account for a disproportionate number of cases, but they still account for 15 percent of COVID-19 deaths — even though they are 9 percent of the population, according to Metro Health data.

Dr. Javed Jeffrey, left, ECMO Specialist Shelby Wingfield, right, and Clayton Lundgren, center, observe a patient before visiting with him in the ECMO unit at Methodist Hospital.
Dr. Javed Jeffrey, left, ECMO Specialist Shelby Wingfield, right, and Clayton Lundgren, center, observe a patient before visiting with him in the ECMO unit at Methodist Hospital.

Bob Owen /San Antonio Express-News

People of color also are more likely to be infected in part because they are less likely to be able to work from home, Gonzalez said.

“The majority of the essential workers, almost 80 percent of front-line workers at grocery stores, are either African American or Latino,” Gonzalez said. “They are exposing themselves more. That really is a socioeconomic thing. They don’t have the luxury of staying home and sheltering.”

Young infecting old

Over the past few weeks, the average age of patients who require hospitalization has changed. Hospitals have seen a surge of patients under 40. A significant portion have no underlying health conditions that would put them at greater risk from the disease.

Dr. Jan Patterson, a professor of medicine and infectious diseases at UT Health San Antonio, said it appears younger people let their guard down when Texas reopened.

After Memorial Day’s large gatherings, the disease began to spread rapidly. And across the state, mixed messaging on masks from state and federal leaders meant many people didn’t wear face coverings in public or when gathering with relatives and friends.

“These younger people are getting infected, but the thing of it is, San Antonio is really big on family and we have a lot of multigenerational households,” Patterson said. “So even though that parent or grandparent may have not necessarily been out, it’s brought to their household by people who have been out.”

Patterson said more young people are being hospitalized — and when they arrive at the hospital, they often bring with them parents or grandparents who also contracted the disease.

The trend has spurred San Antonio’s health executives and government officials to beg residents to heed warnings — such as avoiding large gatherings, staying 6 feet apart and wearing masks.

Allen Harrison, president and CEO of Methodist Healthcare System, put the danger in starkly personal terms.

“My dad died when I was in college. He never saw me graduate. He never saw me get married. He didn’t meet any of my kids,” Harrison said. “San Antonio is a family-centered city. There are a lot of people who regard their members of their family as precious to them— irreplaceable.

“Why would you gamble those relationships with your family in the midst of a pandemic right now?”

Panel to Discuss Entrepreneur Anxieties Fueled by Coronavirus Pandemic

Panel to Discuss Entrepreneur Anxieties Fueled by Coronavirus Pandemic

This story was originally published by San Antonio Report and can be found here

In an effort to address the unique challenges small business owners and entrepreneurs have faced during the coronavirus pandemic, the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (SAHCC) is hosting a mental health webinar on Thursday to discuss stress and anxiety in the business community. The goal is to help “normalize the conversation” and empower those in need to reach out for help.

“The mental health concerns experienced by [small business owners] and entrepreneurs is something that we have seen” increase over the years, with more people dying by suicide and experiencing crises, SAHCC Chairwoman Dr. Erika Gonzalez said. “When the pandemic occurred, there were more and different mental health issues that arose as small business owners struggled to keep their doors open and people employed.”

The COVID-19 Mental Health Webinar, moderated by Rivard Report Editor and Publisher Robert Rivard, will discuss mental health challenges for small business owners, including entrepreneurs with children juggling work and home life demands, stresses and risks involved in owning a small business, and information about available resources for those needing support.

Panelists include Clarissa Aguilar, behavioral health consultant with the Center for Health Care Services, Bexar County’s mental health authority, Adriana Dyurich, a licensed counselor with UT Health San Antonio, and Dr. Ted Williams, founder of Genesis Psychiatric Center and UT Health San Antonio psychiatry professor.

Dr. Lyssa Ochoa, chair of SAHCC’s healthcare and bioscience committee, said the panelists were selected because of their mental health expertise but also their entrepreneurial experiences that “help give insight and reflection into the stresses of small business ownership.”

“How small business leaders have been handling the stress of COVID-19 is something important to talk about because mental health has quite a stigma attached to it, and at the same time, we have the least resources in San Antonio [to address it],” Ochoa said. “If a person had a previous mental health concern, it might be even worse for them now, and we need people to keep checking in on how they are being impacted.”

Ochoa said SAHCC’s health and bioscience committee had planned to spend this year creating a health and wellness program for employees of small businesses that included a strong mental health component, but “this pandemic turned everything upside down” and the focus shifted to the employers.

The committee is now dedicating that time to discussing how the anxiety and uncertainty already attached to the entrepreneurial experience is exacerbated due to coronavirus, and that it is more important than ever to reach out for help.

“As small business owners, we are used to handling stressful situations, but we are trying to make sure we put out there that despite the ability to handle stress, it’s OK if a person needs help,” Ochoa said.

The webinar will air on Zoom from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, May 28, and is open to the public free of charge. To register in advance, click here.

Roseanna Garza

ROSEANNA GARZA

Roseanna Garza reports on health and bioscience for the San Antonio Report. 

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