Houstonians celebrated neighbors who overcome disabilities every day while getting a frank perspective on the current COVID-19 pandemic at the Center for Pursuit’s “Homemade in Texas” virtual luncheon. More than 300 guests logged into YouTube or Zoom for the live event, which was set in the boardroom at the Baylor College of Medicine in the Medical Center.
Attendees were treated to seasoned medical professionals including internationally renowned physician Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine Baylor College of Medicine. Hotez was joined by Dr. James McDeavitt, senior vice president and dean of Clinical Affairs at BCM.
The event was emceed by beloved Houston TV personality, host, and meteorologist, Khambrel Marshall, while Raj and Harsha Naran, Rishi and Shivani Naran, and Jeff and Prina Spillane served as event chairs. The event raised more than $170,000 for the center’s mission of helping more than 450 locals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to live meaningful, dignified lives filled with opportunity and purpose.
Mayor Sylvester Turner kicked off the program, while Tom Landis, founder of Howdy Homemade Ice Cream, was recognized for his commitment to employing individuals with all types of disabilities. Also recognized was Frances Castañeda Dyess, president of Houston East End Chamber of Commerce, for bringing together business partners from all industries and professions primarily in the East End — site of The Center’s new campus. Charles C. Canton, the Center’s president and CEO, presented an update on the organization’s exciting new facilities.
For Hotez, the Center is personal, as he and his wife, Ann, have an adult daughter with autism. The Center, in partnership with Baylor College of Medicine, has committed to continuing research on autism and intellectual disabilities.
“We are confident we likely will have multiple vaccines to prevent COVID-19,” Hotez informed the audience. “I am currently working on a new vaccine that will be producing 1 billion doses in India. The work on this vaccine has been done at Baylor College of Medicine of Tropical Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital for Vaccine Development, and with Dr. Maria Bottazzi.
“It is necessary to have multiple vaccines that are safe and effective to vaccinate 320 million in our country, but we will have them sometime next year, in my opinion.”
Both doctors opined on the measures that they would like to see for safe reopening of schools and easing other restrictions. Those milestones include less than 200 new cases per day and a test positivity rate less than 5 percent over a relatively sustained period of time.
They reminded the audience to don masks, socially distance, and wash hands to keep the virulent disease at bay.
McDeavitt offered up a visual and memorable pandemic analogy: “Controlling COVID-19 is like holding a beach ball underwater, as soon as you relax your grip the ball pops back up to the surface,” McDeavitt explained. “The same for the virus, as soon as we let down our vigilance, relax masking and social distancing, we will see a resurgence in our community until we get a vaccine.”