WICHITA FALLS, Texas (TNN) - Thursday marks one year since the first COVID-related death in Wichita County. It was a person older than seventy who passed away in their home. Those who have worked at the health district since that day said what came next was something they never want to relive again.
“Fast-paced, nonstop, emotional,” is how Denise Santos describes work as a contact tracer, “it was all that.”
Santos said she remembers April 15, 2020, very clearly.
“That’s when I remember thinking wow this is real when we got the first death,” she said.
“It was our first lesson in you can never predict what COVID is going to do to an individual,” Lou Kreidler, the director of the Wichita Falls-Wichita County Public Health District, added.
As a contact tracer, Santos said she still had a job to do, and as the death toll rose, didn’t get easier.
“We built relationships, you know we went through it with them,” she described, “we cried with them, we prayed with them, we prayed with each other, and then we had to get back on the phone and call another.”
“Loved ones were in the hospital. They couldn’t go see them, they couldn’t be close to them and they were dying and it was very hard on the staff and very hard on the families,” Kreidler said.
It has now been thirteen days since a death was reported in Wichita County, a stark comparison to last summer, which Kreidler credits entirely to vaccines.
“They’re absolutely effective, not only in the number of cases that we’re seeing but in the number of deaths as well,” she said.
With the memories of those tearful phone calls still in her head, Santos is asking everyone to do their part so she and her fellow tracers never have to go through that again.
“So that’s why I would hope that everyone would take the precautions they were taking before when our numbers were so high that way we don’t go back to that,” she said.