The COVID-19 pandemic may have upended daily life, but some Stone Oak residents and institutions have gone the extra mile to help their community fight back against the disease.
Pitching in, a high school student designed an online tool that has already helped thousands determine if they are ill with the virus; an elementary learner started making protective face masks to ward off the malady; and a patient who recovered from the disease donated potentially lifesaving plasma to other victims.
Reagan High School junior Rishabh Jain was dismayed by talk of a lack of kits around the San Antonio area to test for the highly infectious, novel strain of coronavirus.
He brainstormed with his parents, Sonal and Nitesh Jain, about a solution.
“We as a family discussed … how we can help the city to screen people using technology,” said Rishabh Jain, whose parents own a small software company, Quacito. “We came up with an idea to build some sort of simple application, which will help the people of San Antonio.”
Jain contacted the city’s Metropolitan Health District. He volunteered to assist in the design of a self-screening tool now available on San Antonio’s website alongside data on local COVID-19 cases.
The tool, https://covid19test.quacito.com, allows individuals who feel symptoms to quickly determine, at home, whether they should get tested for the COVID-19 virus.
“This process consisted of over 100 email exchanges with the city of San Antonio,” Jain said. “Obviously at first I was in awe, but over time it grew on me and I felt much more comfortable discussing new changes and updates to the tool with the city.”
Having developed his coding skills through computer-science studies, Jain said the self-screening tool has evolved in a rapid, positive way.
More than 60,000 residents had used the tool by late April, less than one month after it debuted.
Jain said he looks forward to soon seeing a semblance of normalcy, and his senior year at Reagan. He plans to study business or computer science at the University of Texas at Austin.
“I’m really glad that I got the opportunity to work with the city and build this tool,” he said. “I’m also very proud of what the tool has been able to do for San Antonio and how much it has impacted the city.”
Many community members and businesses have turned to sewing face masks, which became required attire in public across Bexar County.
According to the North East Independent School District, Hardy Oak Elementary School first-grader Dillon Knadler helped his mother, Jackie Knadler, sew face masks to donate to area hospitals.
Jackie Knadler explained what happened in a NEISD press release: “I came across the Facebook page for San Antonio Masks For Heroes and it’s run by an organization called the Mitchell Chang Foundation.”
“They have bins where you can go and drop off the masks and they take care of all the work. They clean them, they sanitize them and they drop them off at the hospitals,” Knadler continued.
Dillon wrote to his teacher about having helped his mother with the masks. Dillon explained it took about 20 minutes to sew each mask. San Antonio Masks For Heroes has collected more than 5,000 masks from San Antonio-area residents.
“I wanted to do it to keep people safe from getting the virus and I wanted to do something kind,” Dillon said in the NEISD release.
Meanwhile, as hospitals concentrated on those needing treatment for their COVID-19 symptoms, patient David Herrmann not only recovered from his battle with the virus, he gave a bit of himself — literally — to help others.
Herrmann, a local real estate entrepreneur, was the first San Antonio patient to donate through the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center’s convalescent plasma donor program.
A patient at Methodist Stone Oak Hospital received Herrmann’s donated plasma in a fight against COVID-19 in early April.
According to the center and Methodist Healthcare System, the idea is that antibodies in the plasma will help fight the viral infection.
A typical donation can aid up to five patients, officials said. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the process, which is part of a national clinical trial.
In order to donate, recovering COVID-19 patients must test negative twice for infection or wait 28 days after the end of symptoms, or wait 14 days after symptoms disappear with one negative test.
Dr. Rick Marple, Methodist Stone Oak’s chief medical officer, said in a center press release that convalescent plasma successfully was used to treat patients during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-1919, and a measles outbreak in the 1930s.
“While there are not any proven treatment options currently available for the novel coronavirus, we have patients severely suffering from COVID-19 who could benefit from convalescent plasma therapy,” Marple added.
The recipient of Herrmann’s plasma donation, Jimmie Hayden, was discharged April 22 after three weeks of hospitalization, officials said.