Cinephiles who have spent the last several months surviving on TV and streaming services on the small-screen will be thrilled to hear the Grain Valley B&B Theatre is excited to welcome back movie lovers to newly renovated theaters on Friday, August 14th.
Movie goers will see a new full-service bar in the lobby, new carpet, and new marquee signs as they enter the theatre. The theatre now features reserved seating, and patrons will notice a difference inside the theatres as well, with each theatre featuring heated reclining seats. Social distancing and cleaning protocols have been put in place to ensure the safety of employees and customers.
The theatre had planned a renovation prior to the closures imposed on movie theatres due to the COVID-19 pandemic.. These shutdowns have temporarily crippled movie theatres, and B&B has been no exception.
B&B Theatres, headquartered in Liberty. MO, prides itself on being a small, family-owned business, whose employees are like family as well.
“This has not be a pleasant time for us. We’ve been affected financially of course.,” Paul Farnsworth, Director of Public Relations for B&B Theatres said.
While the company works through the challenges of maintaining the business and still waiting on COVID-19 related financial assistance, Farnsworth says the support felt from the community has been encouraging.
“Specific to this market, we’ve received immensely positive feedback on social media. They’ve been really supportive at this and other locations by way of gift card purchases online. It’s been very heartening and encouraging.”
“Operating these community theatres is tremendously important to us. This renovation has been a great opportunity to indicate our re-investment in this location, but also our commitment to these new protocols to make sure people coming back are comfortable and accommodated when they revisit us.”
While theatres across the country wait for Hollywood to release new titles, B&B will feature favorite classic movies. Movies on the schedule for opening weekend at the Grain Valley location include Beauty and the Beast, Bohemian Rhapsody, Grown Ups, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Iron Man, Jurassic Park, The Goonies, and Wonder Woman.
“The hope of course is that Tenet, a new film from Warner Brothers, slated to release internationally on the 26th and then domestically on September 3rd, holds. We’re leaning into that and if it does and performs really well, the hope beyond that is that some of the studios will begin to backfill some of these other dates in the fall with some of the content that they have ready,” Farnsworth said.
“Lots of things remain up in the air, but in the meantime, we’re doing all we can to bring back the ‘magic of the movies’, as we say.”
The theatre is also offering private rentals for small groups or families who would like an exclusive showing of a favorite film.
Jeremy Weikel, General Manager of the Grain Valley B&B Theatres,
Is excited to open the doors on August 14th and see familiar faces. He encourages patrons to “arrive early, take a look around, and see all of the great changes.”
B&B Grain Valley Theatres, located at 1131 NE McQuerry Road, opens Friday, August 14th. Details regarding showtimes, tickets, and COVID-19 safety protocols can be found at www.bbtheatres.com.
It is difficult to remember what life was like in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, as the virus and its impact has been a focus of our daily lives since March.
In early March, concerns regarding the virus were mainly focused on those who had traveled internationally or to one of the few affected areas in the States. So the coronavirus was not an immediate concern when Craig Hillbrand of Grain Valley began experiencing a cough, congestion, and shortness of breath in early March.
Hillbrand visited his primary care physician who suspected pneumonia and put him on a Z-Pak (Azithromycin). When his condition worsened, Hillbrand headed to the emergency department at St. Mary’s Medical Center. Not one to seek medical help unless absolutely necessary, his wife and son knew it was serious when he told them he hoped he would be admitted.
“I’ve never had pneumonia, but I’ve had the flu a few times over the years. I just couldn’t go. The fever and the chest pain was like nothing else. It’s hard to explain because I wasn’t thinking too clear at the time,” Hillbrand said.
“They both knew for me to mention wanting to go into the hospital, something was really wrong.”
Hillbrand was found to have pneumonia, multiple pulmonary emboli (blood clots), and tested positive for COVID-19.
“They told us if we hadn't brought him in that Saturday, he likely would not have made it through the weekend,” Craig’s wife Beverly Garrison said.
Hillbrand’s condition was tenuous at best many times during his stay. After going into respiratory failure, he was intubated for 29 days. During that time, he had kidney failure requiring dialysis, sepsis, and required an operation to remove dead skin which still requires wound care. Hillbrand lost 50 pounds of muscle and barely recognized himself when he was finally able to see himself in a mirror.
“I remember them taking the tube and the feeding tube out. During that entire period, I had no idea what was going on. When I realized what was finally going on and where I was, my first thought was concern for my wife and son who had been exposed to me.”
Both Beverly and her son Ryan tested negative for the virus.
Garrison and the couple’s three children were not able to visit Hillbrand during his stay, and had to deal with the shock and try to prepare for his recovery and after care in the meantime.
“The first two weeks, I was kind of in shock. Our middle son, Ryan, kept me focused and kept me going. And when the doctor said to get our son from North Carolina home, it was a shock. We called and got him here, and got to wave (to Hillbrand) through the window. From there, you just have to stay informed and go on with things,” Garrison said.
“If they (St. Mary’s) had to do something out of the ordinary, they would call and kept me informed. They are just incredible there,” Garrison said.
After moving into the rehab unit, Craig worked hard with the help of therapists to regain his strength. Used to his independence, it has been an adjustment to have to depend on others for help.
“They had alarms on beds, so if you get out, the alarm goes off. Well, I had a problem with that,” Hillbrand joked and his wife laughed in appreciation. “I got in trouble a few times. I’ve been independent forever, and I hated to rely on someone else.”
Hillbrand gives endless praise to the physicians, nurses, therapists and staff who kept him going and helped him fight.
“Just the overall professionalism and the concern they showed me was incredible.”
“I told my therapists and doctors, ‘If I’m gonna make it, I wanna walk out of here.’ They made it happen.”
Hillbrand walked out of St. Mary’s on May 22nd with the aid of a walker and the applause of St. Mary’s staff and the theme to the movie Rocky in the background. In a social media post, St. Mary’s Medical Center called Hillbrand a “walking miracle”.
Hillbrand continues to regain strength and the ability to be independent, but the after effects of the virus make recovery slower than he would like.
“It’s hard to take. I’ve been active and independent forever. I worked 40 years, was in the Navy. I thought maybe I’d be back to work in August. But I’m having to realize that my body’s not there yet. You have to mentally get square with what you still have to go through to get back.”
“There’s also survivor guilt with this as well that’s harder than anything. You see the stories of 30 year-olds getting the virus, going into the hospital for a week and dying. It is hard to take.”
“He’s still having emotional ups and downs and anxiety when going out, and it’s understandable,” Garrison said.
“The first time we ate at a restaurant, he had anxiety about going in. Nobody had masks on, and you could just tell by the look on his face, ‘OK, we need to leave now’,”
“I don’t think people are taking it seriously enough. People are saying, ‘I don’t want to be told I have to wear a mask. Well, OK. But that’s a pretty simple thing compared to what you might have to deal with. The statistics are showing that younger people are increasingly being diagnosed with it. You hear someone say, ‘I’m young, I’ll get through it.’ Well, you’d better have a strong body and good insurance, and even then, it can still claim you,” Hillbrand said.
“People need to take this seriously. It affects not just you, but everyone around you,” Garrison said.
“A good support system, both family and medical staff, has been essential, and we were lucky to have good health coverage. I can see where it can bankrupt a family. We’ve seen the bills.”
“But I feel really lucky. I’m capable of doing everything at home now, and I’m getting stronger,” Hillbrand said.
“And we’re all happy to have him home,” Garrison said.
The Board of Aldermen approved a resolution authorizing the City Administrator to enter into an agreement with Jackson County to distribute $865,728 in coronavirus relief funds for the 2020 budget year during its July 13th meeting.
Funding is intended to provide relief from costs associated with technology and software upgrades, facility safety measures, personnel costs related to the virus, and the administration of the Coronavirus Relief Fund. Due to the amount of funding, a single audit will be required.
The breakdown of expenses allocated for this funding is as follows:
Citizen Relief $21,500.00
Facility Upgrades $5,112.42
Substantial Personnel Costs $690,014.00
Supplies (Protective Equipment/Cleaning) $3,431.64
Unanticipated COVID Expenses $4,596.00
In other business, Alderman Shea Bass was appointed Mayor Pro Tem, and the Board approved a liquor license for B&B Theatres and approved the final plat of Rosewood Hills 10th plat. The final plat contains 42 lots and Tract F. The total land area is approximately 22 acres with 10.5 acres designated for common area for water detention purposes and setback from creek. The final plat for the 10th phase substantially conforms to the approved preliminary plat. The final plat conforms to city standards and the engineering civil plans have been approved by the City Engineer.
The Board also approved a payment to the Central Jackson County Emergency Management Agency (CJCEMA) for emergency management services. The CJCEMA is a cooperative effort between the cities of Grain Valley, Blue Springs and Lake Tapawingo in conjunction with the Central Jackson County Fire Protection District. The budgeted cost of this payment is $14,333.00.
City staff requested Board input regarding policies for food truck permit fees, resulting in an extended discussion by Mayor Johnston and other members regarding the impact and benefits of allowing food trucks in the community.
“Our brick and mortar businesses have been decimated. And we’re hurting their investment when we’re bringing in competition and not putting them on a level playing field,” Johnston said. Aldermen Stratton and Aldermen Knox expressed their disagreement that food trucks are negatively impacting brick and mortar restaurants.
“If you have a truck up in Rosewood Hills for instance, they’re not hurting any brick and mortar businesses,” Knox said.
“The Mexican restaurant (El Tequilazo) has had more business than it’s ever had,” Stratton said, referring to the recent Food Truck Friday events downtown. Stratton, who owns a beauty salon in Grain Valley, suggested there was no similar consideration given to other types of businesses.
“The other way I look at it, is that I cannot come to the Board asking that there be no other salons brought into town. There’s no limit put on any other business in town, so I don’t know that it is fair to target them because they have a different type of business, just because it is brick and mortar,”
“I just believe we ought to protect our City businesses. When they’re (residents) buying from a food truck, they are not spending their money to support our local businesses,” Johnston said.
City Administrator Ken Murphy redirected the discussion, noting there seemed to be consensus to develop a fee structure for both one time and annual food truck permit fees. City staff will draft options for the Board to review and discuss.
The next scheduled meeting of the Board of Aldermen will be held at 7:00pm on July 27th at Grain Valley City Hall.
Effective July 1st, Jackson County has instituted a mask requirement as a part of its Phase 2 Recovery Plan.
According to the County, the order is in response to reports of increasing case counts and a potential overwhelming of the health care system. So far, more than 2,600 people have been infected with the virus and 62 people have died in Jackson County. Local public health directors and hospital officials say wearing a face mask is the most effective and least costly strategy to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“While some continue to deny the overwhelming judgment of public health officials, none of us are safe from this deadly disease,” Jackson County Executive Frank White, Jr. said.
“However, we should find comfort in the fact that we have the power to dramatically reduce the impact this virus has on our community by simply wearing a mask. It protects you and more importantly, makes it less likely you will accidently harm someone else. Wearing a mask should not be politicized. Wearing a mask is about saving a life. Be a hero, wear a mask.”
Under the new order, masks covering the mouth and nose must be worn in:
A public indoor space, including a workplace, business, school, place of worship, or public facility such as a community center or library;
A public outdoor space, including parks, playgrounds, farmers markets, bus stops and restaurant/bar patio seating, and when using public transportation, taxis or ride-sharing services.
The following individuals are exempt from the mask requirement:
Those who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Children younger than five years old; and
Children who are younger than two years old should never wear face coverings due to the risk of suffocation.
Children who are two, three, or four years old, with the assistance and close supervision of an adult, are strongly recommended to wear a face covering at all times in settings, like grocery stores or pharmacies, where it is likely that a distance of at least six feet cannot be maintained from non-household members and vulnerable people must go.
Persons with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a face covering. This includes, but is not limited to, persons with a medical condition for whom wearing a face covering could obstruct breathing or who are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a face covering without assistance.
"The science is clear that when we wear masks, we limit the spread of droplets being passed on to others when we talk, cough or sneeze,” Jackson County Health Department Director Bridgette Shaffer, MPH said.
“While some of us are wearing masks in public, we must increase usage to best control the virus. Mask wearing is one of the simplest and least invasive tools we have to protect our families, friends, and neighbors in Jackson County.”
The mask requirement is part of a modified Phase 2 of the Jackson County Recovery Plan, which includes changes to allow in-person instruction at schools, playgrounds to reopen and increased outdoor capacity limits to 100 people.
Residents and businesses with questions should contact the health department by visiting www.jacohd.org/coronavirus, calling (816) 404-9883 or emailing COVID19@tmcmed.org.
A bit of normalcy has resumed at City Hall, the Community Center, and city parks with the reopening of some facilities and programs. The Grain Valley Aquatic Center opened Saturday, June 13th, and City Hall reopened June 15th. The Community Center resumed normal hours of operation on June 8th.
“We still have some programs/classes that we just are not able to offer due to social distancing restrictions but the Fitness Center and Gymnasium are open again and we are taking room rentals,” Parks and Recreation Director Shannon Davies said.
“The first weekend of the pool went really well. We never reached capacity, but we had a nice steady flow of patrons both Saturday and Sunday and are really appreciative of everyone's patience with the COVID-19 restrictions that we had to implement.”
While playgrounds remain closed, all other park amenities are currently open to the public with some restrictions per Phase 2 of Jackson County's Recovery Plan. Davies is hopeful playgrounds can reopen in Phase 3 of the County’s plan.
Baseball/softball field rentals have been very popular this month, according to Davies.
“We can allow practices on our fields in Phase 2, just no tournaments. So several of these youth teams have been practicing in preparation for tournaments scheduled in surrounding counties where tournaments are allowed.”
One popular program not returning in the near future are the monthly senior luncheons. The July senior luncheon has been canceled, and future luncheons have been postponed until further notice.
As residents begin to slowly resume daily activities with the gradual lifting of restrictions on businesses and gathering places, many are looking forward to the opportunity to resume attending church in person. The stay-at-home order forced many congregations to further embrace online platforms, reaching out to parishioners through Facebook, YouTube, Zoom, and other services. But both local pastors and church members are growing weary of meeting virtually.
Following often heated discussions, Jackson County amended the Phase One executive order on May 13th to allow gyms, fitness centers, and places of worship to open with occupancy limits. Places of worship are also now allowed to open with the same occupancy limits as nonessential businesses. Jackson County Health Department continues to encourage the use of drive-in and online services whenever possible, especially for high risk populations.
Faith United Methodist Church in Grain Valley plans to continue to online-only worship through the end of May. Pastor Mike Cassidy explained his congregation is following guidelines from both the County and the Missouri UMC.
“This has been a difficult decision because we do miss meeting together and have some members of our community who are unable to access the internet. Also, May 31st is Pentecost, when we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birthday of the Church. It will be hard not to be together on that day, but we trust that we are making the best decision for the health and safety of our congregation and our neighbors,” Cassidy said.
“When we do return to worship, we are looking at coming back in phases. We've already set the chairs in our sanctuary 6 feet apart to get a feel for what it might be like. We've got plenty of hand sanitizer and disinfectant ready to go. Most likely, our first phase will only include worship in smaller numbers without Sunday school or nursery care.”
“One of the biggest long term changes for us will be the continuation of online worship. This has been something we've been working toward at Faith and the shutdown really sped that process up for us. We've been reaching new people and even bringing back some families who had drifted away. We are committed to continuing this online community even after we return to life in the sanctuary. It is well known that churches see an increase in attendance and giving when they add online worship opportunities, and this has certainly proved true for Faith,” Cassidy said.
Crossroads Church in Grain Valley resumed in-person services last Sunday and will continue again this Sunday, abiding by the social distancing and sanitization protocols as well as limiting building capacity. The church will only hold one service, with no nursery, preschool, or children’s ministry programming. Attendees are asked to RSVP for church service so the church may maximize seating and accommodate guests. RSVPs may be made at the following link: https://crossroadsgv.churchcenter.com/registrations/events/425319
Live streaming of services will continue on Facebook and YouTube.
First Baptist Church Grain Valley will meet online this Sunday, but resume in-person services on May, 31st. The church has been utilitizing Facebook Live and their website, www.grainvalleyfirst.com to share online services, but Pastor Wayne Geiger said he and his congregation are looking forward to the day when they can worship together in person.
“The notes and messages that we are getting from our folks are that people have appreciated our approach and are enjoying the online broadcasts but are really looking forward to meeting again in person when the storm is over,” Geiger said.
Valley Community Church meets at Sni-A-Bar Elementary and have finalized plans with Grain Valley Schools to resume services this Sunday with 25% capacity.
We will ask families not to arrive early, but to enter just before service time (10:00am) and go directly to the auditorium as a family. Families will sit together at a distance from other families for a shortened, family style worship service,” Valley Community Church Pastor Jason Williams said.
“We will not have any kids ministries in operation for the foreseeable future. Several other suggestions for safety will be implemented as well.”
“The last several weeks have been challenging and difficult for us, but our people have done a tremendous job of following the advice of our leaders. Our most vulnerable will be staying home but many will be in attendance for much needed fellowship together,” William said.
Church attendance is not the only factor affected by the shut-down. Youth, community programs, and ministry work has been impacted during this time, but not always negatively.
“Throughout the shutdown, a lot of our programming has been either suspended or seriously pulled back. Our children's and youth ministry have been hosting gatherings through Zoom, but we are definitely feeling Zoom fatigue at this point and it is not at all the same as sharing the same physical space. Some of our small groups are also taking advantage of Zoom. Our taekwondo, cardio class, and music groups have had to take a hiatus and we are still unsure when they will be able to resume. A bright spot has been that we've been able to continue our relationship with the school system to pack and deliver backpack snacks to elementary students in Grain Valley. This is a joint effort between the local churches, Bright Futures, and Grain Valley Assistance Council. We've seen an increase in support from the community for this project since the outbreak. One family in the church stepped up to pack 100 bags each week while wearing masks and gloves to help minimize contact and possible spread of disease,” Cassidy said.
“During the stay-at-home orders, most of our Groups, KidzMin classes for Elementary and Preschool, our Middle/High School Ministry and our Sunday Services have all offered Zoom or Livestream venues to continue to participate. We really enjoyed some wonderful things about this season of ‘The Great Pause’ - getting to do a lot of ministry in some really new ways was a challenge that stretched many of us and grew our church family,” Jones said.
“During this time, our deacons, program leaders, and small groups leaders have continued to stay in touch with members. We have also provided online, downloadable content for families with children and youth and have done targeted Facebook Live and Zoom connections with them. We also have Zoom courses that have been happening during the week for men and women,” Geiger said.
The ability of churches to continue to fund operations and ministries was certainly a concern, but the shutdown has created some positive results.
“Our giving was down slightly initially, but as our people realized how long it was going to last, began giving online and we saw very little change. I'm thankful that our people are so generous! It allows us to continue to be a blessing as a church to our community and to many different ministries around the world,” Williams said.
“Not having people at the church has been odd and saddening, and all of us are craving the opportunity to worship and fellowship together. However, God has continued to bless us as a church. We have not cut back on any of our missions giving and this time of not being able to get together has not affected our overall budget,” Geiger said.
“We certainly lived out, through this period, that the church is not a building. Since our very beginning, we've always taught the value that we don't go to church...we are the church,” Jones said.
“Financially, our offerings have never been better. Not only have we continued to meet budget consistently, but our offerings have also increased over the first quarter. Not only that, but we've raised several thousand dollars in special offerings for people groups suffering in our city and around our world.”
“All in all - it's not the same, but we believe that God is in constant care for and absolute rule over all His creation, for His glory and the good of His people. This pandemic didn't catch Him by surprise or off His game. He's teaching us and strengthening us through these trials for the work that He's prepared for us to do,” Jones said.
Residents hoping to kick off the summer season this Memorial Day weekend with a dip in the pool will have to wait a few weeks longer. Grain Valley Parks and Recreation announced the opening of the pool will be delayed until June, contingent on the restrictions provided in Phase 2 of Jackson County’s Recovery Plan for outdoor aquatic facilities. Aquatic programs, including swim lessons, are contingent upon Phase 2 restrictions.
The Fitness Center inside the Grain Valley Community Center reopened on Monday, May 18th. The gymnasium and all other common meeting space have remained closed, with just the Fitness Center open to the public.
“We are thrilled to once again see members of our community coming in to exercise. Even though we are not ‘completely’ open yet, the Fitness Center is a step in the right direction to once again provide opportunities for health and wellness to our residents,” Shannon Davies, Grain Valley Parks and Recreation Director said.
The Center will be open 8:00am – 5:00pm Monday – Friday through at least May 25th, and will not be open on Memorial Day.
“We hope to reopen the building in its entirety soon and resume our normal hours of operation, 7 days a week. This will be contingent on Phase 2 of Jackson County’s Recovery Plan, which we have been told will be issued between now and May 25th,” Davies said.
The Center is open to current members and those wanting to purchase a membership or day pass.
Davies explained the Community Center has implemented several safety measures in response to COVID-19, including:
Limiting the # of patrons in the Fitness Center at one time. Patrons are encouraged to call the Community Center (816-847-6203) before arriving to see if there will be a wait.
Certain pieces of cardio equipment and weight machines are “out-of-service” to ensure that the 6-feet of distance between individuals is adhered to.
Patrons must sign-in when they arrive, and sign-out when they leave. This includes name and contact information. This allows for tracing by the Jackson County Health Department should the need arise.
Patrons are not allowed to use the Fitness Center if they are showing any signs of illness.
Patrons are required to wash their hands before entering the Fitness Center and required to wash their hands before leaving the facility.
Patrons are required to wipe down any fitness equipment immediately after they are done using it with anti-bacterial/alcohol wipes provided at the center.
Center staff is required to wear facemasks when interacting with patrons who come to exercise. Staff are to not come to work if they are exhibiting any signs of illness.
Facemasks for patrons are recommended when visiting, but it is not required.
Center staff sanitizes commonly used areas each day before opening and more frequently depending on volume.
Grain Valley’s aquatic facility will not reopen on Memorial Day weekend due to
Jackson County’s stay-at-home order. The opening of the pool will be delayed until June, contingent on the restrictions provided in Phase 2 of Jackson County’s Recovery Plan for outdoor aquatic facilities. Aquatic programs, including swim lessons, are contingent upon Phase 2 restrictions.
Photo credit: City of Grain Valley
by Mayor Mike Todd, City of Grain Valley
Hello Grain Valley! I know that these last several weeks have been a time of uncertainty and stress for everyone. However, there has been much positivity with neighbors helping each other by picking up necessities, countless birthday “drive-bys,” sidewalk chalk art, signs in some of your yards and teddy bears in windows to lift the spirits of a passersby. Our homes have become classrooms and offices. Families have spent more time together than they typically do, bringing many great moments with new memories made. We have faced challenges as well trying to keep children occupied and interested in their schoolwork, while many of us work from home.
As a special education teacher for the Blue Springs School District, I know that our students have missed out on many of their typical spring school experiences, but I am amazed at the manner in which the Grain Valley School District and community have shown support to both students and teachers. Thank you to the Grain Valley School District for their quick response to the Stay-at-Home order when it was first put in place in March. They’ve provided nearly 450 meals daily (Monday-Friday) for students over the last several weeks and will continue a similar program through the end of June. Students were engaged with a variety of resources available to them from the school district and even some fun social media challenges.
Congratulations to the graduating class of 2020! I wish each and every one of you the best as you move into your future. I know that this has not been the graduation season that you dreamt of, but this community is so proud of you as evidenced by the great support shown with yard signs, special gifts and the graduate parade.
Our City staff has been working diligently to keep you informed of precautions and changes in County restrictions. Jackson County recently released Phase 1 of the Recovery Plan which will be evaluated for the appropriate next steps, sometime in the last week of May. It is unknown at this time when we will be able to proceed to the next phase.
The County will rely on many factors, including results of mobile testing sites, which they (along with Truman Medical Centers) have made more available over the last two weeks. We hosted one in the Community Center parking lot a couple of weeks ago. There have been several additional testing sites throughout the area, with one scheduled at Delta Woods Middle School in Lee’s Summit, Friday, May 22nd from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm. This testing is free to all Jackson County residents. Please, if you are experiencing any symptoms such as fever, coughing, shortness of breath or any other flu-like symptoms in nature, call 816-404-CARE to register for testing.
We know that these last several weeks have been challenging for many of our local businesses. I encourage you to support them as often as you can and please be patient, as they are limited by social distancing guidelines as to how many customers are allowed inside each establishment.
I am hopeful that the lengths and sacrifices made since March have helped to flatten the curve, but I implore you to please continue moving forward with precaution. Please practice social distancing at all times and wash/ sanitize your hands frequently.
Visit cityofgrainvalley.org or our City of Grain Valley Facebook page to stay up to date regarding COVID-19 response, testing and information about moving forward as we proceed over the next several weeks. Jackson County Health Department (jacohd.org) is a great resource as well with tips on how to keep your family safe.
COVID-19 has impacted nearly every community in the United States, but none quite as much as New York. According to the New York Times, as of May 13th, New York State has 345,828 total cases and 27,450 deaths. It is hard to get a sense of what this actually feels like on the ground, but one Grain Valley woman saw the impact of this disease up close.
Audrey Anderson, a wife and mother of four, left her home in Grain Valley on April 9th to drive with fellow emergency medical technicians (EMT) from Kansas City to New York to support their brothers and sisters in New York City.
After several weeks of service in New York, Anderson returned home to quarantine at a campsite in Odessa for fourteen days, finally able to reunite with her family on Mother’s Day. Anderson’s experience in New York has given her a new respect for her colleagues on the ground in New York City and the virus that continues its grip around the world.
Anderson graduated from the UMKC School of Medicine EMT program in December 2018 and has been a licensed EMT for nearly two years. Anderson recently began work with Midwest Medical, a transport company based in Nebraska with a station located in Kansas City. As COVID-19 began to spread throughout the country, Anderson’s boss asked if she would be willing to be deployed, as she was one of the few on staff with the Hazmat and FEMA certifications needed to go.
“With no clue of where I would be deployed, what exactly I would be doing, and how long I would be gone, I said ‘yes’ without hesitation. One thing everyone needs to understand is that EMS workers get very little pay, work long hours and work in extremely difficult, emotional and dangerous conditions. We do this job because that is where our heart is. We all know these things when we signed up to risk our lives for others each day. This situation was no different. In my mind my brothers and sisters in EMS afar needed our help and I needed to be there for them,” Anderson said.
“I knew leaving my family would be taking a huge risk, but we made the decision together as a family. So when I got the call back in April that said I was being deployed to New York City and need to have my bags packed and be at the station in less than four hours, I quickly packed my things and hugged my family goodbye. The thought of going to New York City, the epicenter of the pandemic was a scary thought, and I would be lying to say I didn’t panic and almost turn around a few times and head back home. The one thought that kept going thought my head was my EMS family needs help, so I cannot let them down.”
Anderson left April 9th from Midwest Medical’s Kansas City station with a caravan of ambulances that took 36 hours to travel to New York. The caravan stopped in Lincoln, Omaha, Des Moines, and Cleveland to pick up trucks and crew along the way. A total of 15 ambulances and 30 crew members reported to the Bronx Zoo where their deployment staging area was located.
“From there we met up with the other 500 EMS volunteers that had flooded in from across the country. Standing there at that moment and seeing all the others that left their families to come help was such an emotional and humbling experience,” Anderson said.
The group was divided into two groups. The majority were assigned to interfacility transfers (IFT calls). The remaining, including Anderson, were assigned to Fort Totten, a former army base in Queens, to run 911 calls throughout the five boroughs in the city.
“To us, it felt like we had won the lottery. That may sound crazy to say in this situation, but the opportunity to run 911 calls along side FDNY, the most highly regarded EMS service in the country, maybe even the world, was truly a blessing. We were all split up into task forces and assigned to a specific borough. My task force was assigned to run calls in the central Bronx. We were required to be up and out of our hotel to catch the shuttle to the base by 8:00am and would not return to our hotel until 1:00am. Most nights we would be lucky just to get 4-5 hours of sleep.”
“Trying to decompress at the end of a long physically and emotionally draining shift was hard, especially if you still needed to do your laundry before you had to get up and do it all over again. I felt like a robot.”
“The majority of calls we ran were COVID-19 positive or suspected COVID-19 patients. The others were your normal EDP (emotionally disturbed person), panic attacks, gunshot, stabbings, etc. The biggest heart break was that every 10-15 minutes, a call would come out over the radio for a cardiac or respiratory failure in progress. 90% of those calls were COVID-19 patients, and by the time we arrived is was too late or the all too often ‘well check calls’ that ended in COVID-19 patients being DOA (dead on arrival).”
“There were buildings completely ravaged by positive COVID-19 patients because they all share the same elevators and stairwells and struggled with the lack of PPE (personal protective equipment) to protect themselves.”
“Most still had to get up every day and go to work to provide for their families. They didn’t have the same luxury most of us do to stay put and wait it out. So many times, we were called out to a residence where most, if not all the family members were positive for COVID-19. One household of 7 already had 4 members of the family that had succumbed to the virus and the looks on their faces of pure terror each time we were called out will haunt my mind forever. They knew they had the virus and would most likely have the same fate as the others. I didn’t know what to do or say to make them feel better. It was incredibly sad. I spent many nights in my truck in between calls or in my hotel room crying for those who were suffering.”
The severity of the virus and its ability to impact patients of all ages was a constant reminder while on calls.
“This virus is no joke. I have seen firsthand what it can and will do if we do not take it seriously. It is not just the older generation or the people with pre-existing conditions that are being affected. I took countless patients to the hospital that were the perfect example of health and fitness. I saw a 12 year-old girl, the same age as my daughter, die from this virus who was a normal, healthy middle schooler just weeks before,” Anderson said.
The memories of these calls and the sights and sounds in the hospitals are still vivid for Anderson.
“The noises you hear as you would walk in the emergency department of each hospital. The sound a heart monitor makes when someone is flatlining and losing their life was constant. You would hear multiple going off at the same time and see the hospital staff and EMS frantically doing CPR. The faces of all of us after each call that we couldn’t save someone was devastating. We felt defeated and empty, but all we could do was clean ourselves, our cots, and our trucks, and then off to the next call we went.”
“I hope those that read this article will stop complaining about being stuck inside and their inconvenienced social life, and stay at home, heed the warnings, and enjoy your family. Realize how blessed you are to wake up each day, because so many of the patients I transported did not have the same luck.”
Back home, Anderson is grateful for the support of her family and friends during her deployment and quarantine.
“My family and friends are truly amazing. The love and support that was shown while I was deployed, in quarantine, and now while at home is truly heartfelt and humbling. I received many care packages while in New York City, and had many family and friends stop by my campsite in Odessa with food, booze, and goodies to keep me occupied and sane while I was there for 14 days. The calls and texts I received is what kept my spirits high and kept me going.”
Anderson’s quarantine ended on Mother’s Day, and a friend who owns Chef J BBQ in the West Bottoms prepared a meal for her return.
“Needless to say, it was the best and most memorable Mother’s Day ever.”
Anderson continues to think of her work family in New York City and remembers their support fondly.
“The love and support shown to us by FDNY was amazing. From the moment we got there, until the moment we left, they treated us like family. They fed us and welcomed us into their stations with open arms. They gave us shirts and patches and friendships I will forever cherish. We laughed together and cried together. Also, the mutual aid from across the country became family and I still stay in touch with them now that I am home.”
“It’s much easier to talk about what happened with those that were out there fighting this pandemic with us than put those images in our family and friends’ minds. It was hard enough for us to handle, let alone telling others about it,” Anderson said.
A lesson many of us know but do not often take to heart was solidified for Anderson during this experience.
“Don’t take the ones you love for granted, for tomorrow is never promised.”
Jackson County amended the Phase One executive order on May 13th to allow gyms, fitness centers, and places of worship to open with occupancy limits.
Gyms and fitness centers will be allowed to open May 18 with occupancy limits. Conversations with these stakeholders has produced valuable modification proposals to help limit risk.
Places of worship are also now allowed to open with the same occupancy limits as nonessential businesses.
Jackson County Health Department continues to encourage the use of drive-in and online services whenever possible, especially for high risk populations.