Yolanda Carrillo and her staff of chaplains at hospitals in the Rio Grande Valley have seen heartache and felt its pain in recent months.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has consequently separated the sick from their loved ones with the denial of hospital visitations. Hospital chaplains have stepped in best they can. They are waving hellos and also making signs of prayer through windows looking into intensive care units.
The Valley thus far has not experienced the crush of coronavirus patients at area hospitals seen elsewhere. Carrillo and others on the frontlines of health care have seen enough, however, to know area communities must be vigilant in containing the virus.
“It’s a teaching moment for our communities,” said Carrillo, the director of health ministries for the Diocese of Brownsville. “If we want to get through this as a community, we need to follow the measurements of care.”
Social distancing, avoiding large gatherings of people and wearing masks in public are fundamental guidelines from health professionals to deter the spread of the disease. Business leaders like David De Anda, the president of Lone Star National Bank, say an economy on the mend ties to following public health guidelines.
“To fully recover (economically), we need to follow the rules of social distancing,” De Anda said. “We’ve seen the Valley united on all of this so far. We need to continue our vigilance.”
A community effort
Lone Star National Bank has been among the many Valley businesses and organizations that have been active in providing both supplies and donations to food banks and community pantries. In Brownsville, the United Way of Southern Cameron County mobilized quickly to launch United Against Hunger. The effort focuses on weekly mass food distributions to help families economically dislocated by COVID-19.
“We are seeing heightened awareness in the community of the financial tightrope so many of our friends and neighbors walk every day,” said Traci Wickett, the president of the United Way of Southern Cameron County. “One missed paycheck is the difference between food on the table and no food on the table.”
Wickett said she has been heartened by the willingness of people of all ages and backgrounds to give of their time and resources. She noted students from Saint Joseph Academy raised $500 for United Against Hunger. Individual donations have exceeded $25,000.
“The generosity of our neighbors is gratifying and life giving,” Wickett said. “People are leaving their egos at the door to plan for how to accomplish the task of getting food into the pantries of those who need it the most.”
The interdependency of people in working together to deal with a pandemic is a theme community leaders often cite. In the hospitals, Carrillo said she and her staff of chaplains have felt a greater sense of both teamwork and awareness among staffs in providing health care in the most trying of times. That same sort of awareness, she says, needs to also be strong in the community.
“It’s not only about me or you, or any of us individually,” Carrillo said. “We’re all in this together and we need to watch out for each other and protect each other.”