In the latest Around Town column, news about two COVID-19 survivors connected through a donation of convalescent plasma, teens helping essential workers through ergonomic headbands and a new name for Palo Alto's Summer Streets program.
PLASMA PALS … The coronavirus pandemic has brought together strangers in countless, unexpected ways. For Shanti Minkstein, it was a donation of COVID-19 convalescent plasma (CCP) made at the Stanford Blood Center and given to Lance Becker, a banker roughly 1,800 miles away in Des Moines, Iowa. The donor and recipient, both COVID-19 survivors, recently met through a virtual meeting set up through the blood center on Sept. 2. "I thought you might have been Tom Hanks. I'm not disappointed, but they wouldn't give me your name at first so I'm like 'OK, it's a movie star!'" Minkstein told Becker. (On March 11, Hanks announced his COVID-19 diagnosis on Twitter while in Australia.) The pair described their experiences with the disease. Minkstein said she felt fatigued after a trip to Mexico and later tested positive for COVID-19. The photographer and San Francisco mother of two quickly recovered and made her plasma donation in early April, becoming the second patient to donate CCP at the center. She was inspired to give after learning her friend's husband became critically ill. Becker tested positive for the virus after a business trip and was hospitalized on April 1. After receiving Minkstein's CCP on April 10, Becker's lungs began to clear and he returned home by month's end. "The fact that the symptoms range from a couple days of discomfort to full blown hospitalization ... it's a gamble if you don't take it seriously," he said. "You're gambling with your life." Becker's now paying it forward by donating his CCP at LifeServe Blood Center in Des Moines. Watch a video of Minkstein and Becker's conversation at stanfordbloodcenter.org/sbc-tv. For information on donating to Stanford Blood Center, visit stanfordbloodcenter.org/covid19plasma.
HEAD(BANDS) IN THE RIGHT PLACE ... Face masks have become a necessity in the effort to prevent COVID-19 from spreading in the community, but they can become uncomfortable for essential workers after a long shift. A group of local high school students from GENCare, an organization with a goal of helping people during the health crisis, is working to give workers more relief by making them ergonomic headbands. "Instead of the straps going around one's ear, they hook around a button on the headband, therefore reducing tension and discomfort," according to the GENCare's website. Last month, the group donated 75 headbands to the Ravenswood Education Foundation through its partnership with the Essential Heroes Campaign, a nonprofit founded by a group of Gunn High School students with a goal of recognizing local essential workers. Since launching in June, GENCare has raised $650, exceeding its $500 goal, through a GoFundMe campaign to buy supplies for the headbands. The teens planned to donate the surplus to the World Health Organization's COVID-19 Response Fund. The group plans to tackle more projects with the goal of bringing care to as many groups as it can. To learn more about GENCare, visit gencare.godaddysites.com.
NEW NAME, SAME PURPOSE ... With fall fast approaching, Palo Alto has rebranded its Summer Streets program under a new name: Uplift Local. The change announced Tuesday was made as the effort enters the fall and winter months. Expanded through Dec. 31, Uplift Local closes streets in the city's main commercial areas to provide ample space for outdoor dining, shopping and curbside pickup services for restaurants, retailers, salons and fitness centers, among other businesses. After roundtable discussions with business leaders from multiple industries, the program rolled out June 11 on California Avenue, where traffic has been blocked from El Camino Real to Birch Street. University Avenue followed on June 26, when the city closed downtown's main strip between Cowper and Ramona streets. The city has also closed Ramona Street from Hamilton Avenue to just past New Orleans-themed restaurant Nola. The city has encouraged the public to walk or bike to both districts, where parking and time restrictions have temporarily been suspended. The program has continued to grow through a parklet program to help restaurants provide outdoor dining and more signage to assist businesses in publicizing their curbside pickup and delivery options. Learn more about Uplift Local at cityofpaloalto.org/upliftlocal.