2 years later: looking back on COVID in Wichita Co. on anniversary of first case

Published: Mar. 18, 2022 at 7:30 PM CDT
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WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) - A lot has changed since the first COVID-19 case was recorded in Wichita County exactly two years ago.

On the anniversary of the pandemic “officially” reaching Texoma, we took a look back at how Wichita Falls and surrounding areas reacted, and looked toward what the future might hold.

Back in 2020, even one case felt overwhelming to public health officials.

“The first time that we got ten cases in, we were like, oh gosh, this is a lot,” Lou Kreidler, health director of the Wichita Falls-Wichita County Public Health District,” recalled.

She said every day of the last two years has been a new and different adventure.

In those early days, staff would stay overnight as they tried to mitigate how COVID-19 affected the community. As the virus rapidly spread throughout the area, they were forced into the well-oiled machine of routine. By the time fall rolled around, the health district was getting 400-500 new cases every day.

Schools and businesses closed as the numbers started rising. Wichita County followed the rest of the nation into an almost complete lockdown, with people only venturing outside for essentials and minimizing contact with all but the closest of friends and family members.

What followed the lockdown was a complete change in daily life. Just as Texoma residents adjusted to wearing masks in the height of the pandemic, people began to accept that COVID-19 was part of a new normal.

“People have got to go on with their lives. It’s something that we’re going to have to face,” Wichita Falls resident Ed Frescas said. “I don’t think it’s ever going to be to a zero. It’s going to be like the flu is, and we’re just going to have to deal with it in our lives.”

Cases in Wichita County have plummeted over the past few weeks, with the health district reporting only five new cases on Friday. Even so, Kreidler mirrored Fresca’s sentiments as she predicted that COVID will never be fully eradicated.

“As we see things like the increase in vaccinations and more people getting a natural immunity to the disease, that will progress into the endemic phase and we’ll move into that,” Kreidler said. “I foresee a time when COVID vaccinations will be an annual vaccination, just like our flu vaccine is.”

Resilience is in human nature, and two years after that fateful first case was reported in Wichita County, Texoma residents have adapted to the new normal of living in a pandemic.

“Just trying not to stay in that state of worry of like, you know, Christmas holidays, spring break, summer,” resident Stormy James said. “I’m ready for people to live their lives as carefully and respectfully as possible.”

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