Pandemic

Creative Masks

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has mandated most Texans wear masks for most activities outside the home. What that mask looks like — is up to you. That was the inspiration for this Typewriter Rodeo poem.

Texas Standard: June 30, 2020

A plea to Governor Abbott as COVID-19 cases set new records in Texas: do more to curb the spread, or let us take steps to do it. A return to stay at home orders? That’s one thing leaders in Travis county are asking for the power to enforce, as hospitalization rates in and around the Texas capitol city approach 70 percent. Also the pandemic sparks extended food benefits for millions of Texas kids. And though the current plan is for many Texas schools to reopen in the fall, many teachers may not be in the classroom. We’ll hear why plus a whole lot more today on the Texas Standard:

In Praise Of

The pandemic revealed something interesting about which jobs are really “essential.” It opened a dialogue about priorities and it’s a conversation that’s not over. That was the inspiration for this week’s poem.

Texas Standard: May 29, 2020

As much of the Lone Star State reopens, many prisoners in Texas eligible for parole are remaining behind bars. Why the hold up? We’ll explore. The governor says officials are monitoring the state for possible flareups and outbreaks but that effort’s overlooking many parts of Texas, notably communities of color. We’ll have details. Also, Texas hospitals that received bailout cash are suing a growing number of poor or unemployed patients. And rethinking the mythology surrounding the Texas ranger, the week in politics and more today on the Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: May 22, 2020

Potter County in the Texas Panhandle is seeing more than its share of Coronavirus cases, at least population-wise. We’ll get a look on the ground. Also, what’s voting going to look like in Texas come November? Turns out folks have very strong opinions about this. We’ll hear from some. And we’ll hear again from our go-to doctor for questions about the Coronavirus. One question for today? The risk of sending kids back to childcare. We’ll explore. And if your thumb has become a little greener during this pandemic, you’re not alone not now, and not historically. Those stories and more on today’s Texas Standard:

Texas Standard: May 19, 2020

Bars, tattoo parlors and rodeos. What a return to normal is shaping up as in Texas as Governor Abbott moves to the next stage in reopening. Reopening dates vary by industry and rules aren’t being relaxed everywhere at once. Tony Plohetski of KVUE and the Austin American Statesman spells it out. Also, is the U.S. Government fast tracking child deportations? And why are so many small businesses having trouble getting promised aid? Plus the Hill Country spider that caught the attention of the Texas Supreme Court. Those stories and more today on the National News Show of Texas:

Texas Standard: May 14, 2020

How to make up for lost time: reopen school for a full year? Texas educators struggle with what to do in the fall and thereafter, we’ll have the latest. Plus, a new phase in the battle against the spread of the Coronavirus as businesses try to reopen. We’ll hear more on the state of testing in the state of Texas. And Dr. Fred Campbell of UT Health San Antonio takes up more of your COVID-19 questions. Also, who’s in charge, where? The back and forth over seemingly contradictory safety orders from state and local officials. Those stories and so much more today on the Texas Standard:

What To Do If You Run Out Of TP

It was one of the first signs that life was going to get strange for a while: toilet paper started flying off the shelves. The supply still doesn’t seem particularly stable. That was the inspiration for this Typewriter Rodeo poem.

Texas Standard: May 5, 2020

Add to the latest Coronavirus hotspots: Texas prisons. Some 70 percent of those tested have the Coronavirus. What happens next? Jolie McCullough of the Texas Tribune talks about how Texas prisons are trying to tackle COVID-19 behind bars, and what their options are. Plus, federal stimulus money for small businesses and Native Americans. Have both missed the mark? We’ll explore. Also, why university of Texas researchers think the llama could be a pandemic hero. And revisiting the border wall and a whole lot more today on the Texas Standard:

Homeschooling

Most Texas students are finishing the 2019-2020 school year online — at least as much as possible. That was the inspiration for this Typewriter Rodeo poem.

Texas Standard: April 16, 2020

As many jobs lost in the past month as all those created since the great recession, now Texas hospitals struggling to make ends meet, we’ll have the latest. Other stories were tracking: the oil and gas industry asking for more state regulation? More on an historic hearing aimed at trying to stop a downward spiral. Also, one place where business is good? Check in with some factories on the Texas Mexico border. And the Texas governor set to talk about plans aimed at getting back to business. A top pandemic expert at Texas A&M has a warning. Those stories and so much more today on the Texas Standard:

The Texas Polio Epidemic

The silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic, if there is one, seems to be that it spares children. The polio epidemic that raged off and on in the United States for about 40 years did the opposite. Indeed, it seemed to focus on children. Whereas there is hope that COVID-19, like the flu, will weaken in warmer weather, polio was most aggressive in the summer months. As such, Texas was perhaps the hardest hit state of all.

Dr. Heather Green Wooten, a medical historian, and author of the award-winning book, The Polio Years in Texas: Battling a Terrifying Unknown, told me the story of how Texas responded to the polio epidemic that terrified the state every summer for years.

Dr. Wooten told me that when San Angelo had a breakout of polio in 1949 – the hardest-hit town per capita that year in the U.S. – it was horrifying in scope for the city of 50,000. Sixty children in San Angelo came down with polio in one summer. Many died. Movie theaters and swimming pools and public gatherings were shut down. Travelers passing through would roll up their windows so as not to breathe the potentially contaminated air. They wouldn’t even fill up a low tire at the gas station for fear of taking the virus with them. Some residents refused to talk on the phone with anyone, believing that perhaps, somehow, polio could travel through the phone lines.

This kind of fear gripped Texas every summer for years. Parents would not let their children swim or go to summer camp or do anything in groups in an effort to keep them safe. Houses were kept spotless and were scrubbed top to bottom to kill all the germs. In fact, Wooten told me, “When mothers lost a child to polio, they suffered added anguish because they felt they would be judged as bad mothers and poor housekeepers. They would explain to reporters that ‘they had always kept a very clean house and didn’t understand how this could have happened.’”

There was a public service song by Red River Dave, frequently played on the radio in those days. It stressed cleanliness. Here’s a sample:

Take care that all the food you eat and kitchen ware is clean/

Kill the rats and kill the mice and make the roaches go/

That’s the way to really whip that mean old polio

The response to polio was largely a grassroots one, with the common man (and children) largely funding the research, the treatments, the hospitals and rehab centers. The March of Dimes, launched by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was enormously successful in this regard. It mobilized school children and civic groups of all kinds – Rotary International, Kiwanis, The Masons – to collect dimes, quarters and dollars from anyone and everyone. Theaters would play a short film like “The Crippler” before every movie, and then turn on the lights and collect donations from the crowd. It was incredibly effective. The March of Dimes also introduced us to the concept of the poster child, one of the most persuasive fundraising strategies of all time. Collection receptacles, in the form of little iron lungs, were placed at cash registers everywhere.

Wooten said that the small donations coming from almost every American gave each person a stake in beating polio. I like that one year the March of Dimes national campaign was launched from the community of Dime Box, Texas, about 70 miles east of Austin. How’s that for creative marketing!

When World War II broke out, the March of Dimes feared that donations would dry up.  However, FDR made beating polio part of the war effort. He said on a radio address: “The fight against [polio] is a fight to the finish, and the terms are unconditional surrender.”

Big money entered the fight as well. Texas’ great oilmen gave millions to build hospitals, treatment facilities and fund research. Two of the greatest contributors were oil magnate Hugh Roy Cullen and politician Jesse Jones, both historically among Texas’ most generous philanthropists.

Great institutions in Texas like the Scottish Rite Hospital for Crippled Children and the Gonzalez Warm Springs Rehab Hospital for Crippled Children were among the best in the country, as was the Jefferson Davis Hospital in Houston. A fascinating side note is that these hospitals were also among the first institutions to be fully integrated, accepting all children on equal terms, regardless of race, religion or creed. Wooten noted that the children took to integration beautifully and became each other’s best therapy. Doctors found that putting them together helped them function as a team against the disease, cheering each other on against a common enemy.

You know the rest of the story: Dr. Jonas Salk, funded by the March of Dimes, discovered the first vaccine for the virus in the early 1950s, and rather than getting a patent and becoming an instant billionaire, he made a gift of his vaccine to all humanity.

Texas Standard: March 23, 2020

Dallas County becomes the first in Texas with orders to shelter in place. Reporters statewide join us with the latest on fight against the Coronavirus. Plus as Texas braces for economic fallout, how to plan in a time of uncertainty. Also the new school order across Texas, a return to college in a season of lockdown leaves some students adrift. And the connection between COVID-19 and a rise in domestic violence, how shelters are filling and in need of help. Those stories and a whole lot more today on the Texas Standard: