Looking forward: Potential changes as a result of the coronavirus pandemic


AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Coronavirus cases are on a steady decline in the Amarillo area. Now, local health leaders and city officials are looking to the future and the changes they expect to see as a result of the pandemic.

“This pandemic has changed everything,” said Dr. Scott Milton, an infectious disease specialist at Texas Tech Physicians, as well as the Public Health Authority.

Dr. Milton said he was unsure of any potential rules we might see in the future, adding, “I think it may be something that’s more a personal choice of some individuals down the road of how they’re going to approach, even other contagious illnesses like the flu, etc. I think that there’s probably going to be more people that are going to be okay with wearing a mask.”

Dr. Milton said the choice to make behavioral changes is more of a moral issue than something to legislate.

“It really does boil down to people being compliant and making a personal choice to protect other people by wearing a mask,” said Dr. Milton. “But, I do think that there’s going to be some behavior that will be changed in the future.”

Northwest Texas Hospital’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Brian Weis, said hospitals will have a new normal as they screen for suspected cases of COVID-19.

“We don’t want to risk people contracting the virus in the hospital, particularly when they’re undergoing surgical or interventional procedures,” Dr. Weis said. “We will continue to screen those patients, to protect them, to protect our staff, to protect the physicians.”

He continued, “I think that’s going to be just incorporated in our daily routine at this point, for maybe quite a while. Just making sure that we are vigilant about screening for this virus and taking care of those people appropriately, who do turn out to have the virus active.”

Amarillo City Manager Jared Miller said while nearly 700 people have died due to COVID-19 in Potter and Randall Counties, hygiene practices have kept many people from getting other illnesses.

“So, in no way am I saying this is a good thing but it is teaching us habits that will be useful going forward, forever,” Miller said. “From a sanitization inside the workplace standpoint, there’s been a massive impact on the quality of life that our employees have. Yes, there’s been this big threat for Coronavirus, but the yearly impact of flu and other things has just not happened this year.”

Local health leaders said it is also possible many of the adaptations we have made to continue working during the pandemic will not go away altogether.

“I think you’ll see a lot more of what we’re doing right now is, instead of personal meetings, or congested meetings, maybe meetings electronically and digitally,” said Dr. Weis.

Miller said the City of Amarillo invented new processes for providing customer service, both virtually and with the use of curbside service.

“I don’t think any of those things are going to go away. We’re definitely going to go back to being able to provide that good face-to-face customer service but we have more options, more tools in our tool belt—in our tool chest, to be able to provide service to our community and to our team,” Miller added. “So, I think there’s [sic] lots of things that we’ve learned that are going to be very beneficial long-term.”

Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson said the pandemic forced many people into the same foxhole, building unique working relationships and allowing them to work together to find solutions.

“That teamwork, skill, and the relationships—those aren’t going away, and those will benefit our community, no matter what challenge sits down in front of us,” Mayor Nelson said.

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