Few questions are asked about where healthcare workers stay when they leave home to work in an emergency situations like CORVID-19. Those working in high levels of danger are oftentimes required to stay away from loved ones, while needing protecting themselves.
Branson performer Christopher James and his wife Rachael own a number of empty rental units. The couple thought their half dozen units could provide free housing for local health care workers needing to quarantine themselves or their families since they work in such a contagious environment.
“We did so after seeing health care workers camping in their garages and being forced to sleep in unfavorable situations as they continue to serve the community,” James said. “Plus, it just seemed like the right thing to do for those essential workers out there taking care of the public and on the front lines of this fight. We had the means to help and felt we should.”
Since most of the states in the U.S. have issued “Stay at Home Orders,” tourists or visitors are not coming to Branson.
“People are not going to flee to a tourist destination during this time,” James said. “We felt that we had to pay the expenses on our investments while they sat empty, and if we could give just one person peace of mind that they could continue to do their jobs without risking the health of their own families, we had the obligation to do what we could.”
The calls for lodging they’ve received have mostly been from local Cox employees taking advantage of their offer. Travis Bell, a Physician Assistant working in the Emergency Room at Cox Branson is among those. He has not yet gone to the condos, but he is relieved that he has a plan.
“I haven’t had to stay yet,” Bell said. “But as I said to him, I have four young daughters, all with respiratory issues and a wife with severe asthma, which puts them all in a higher risk category with this virus. Taney County Ambulance District (TCAD) has provided beds for us to stay in if we want to isolate from our families, but if we are quarantined we obviously can’t use those beds without exposing the rest of the company.”
Another staff Cox staff member is Nursing Assistant, Nursing Supervisors - Float, Tabitha Gideon. “I took Mr. James up on his condo rental for little to no cost so my family would be kept safe from COVID 19,” she said. “If I were to give a quote about how his family has helped mine it would have to be, ‘Thankful. I am very thankful that they are members of this community who opened their door for medical personal.’ Mr. James and his wife allowed all communication to be over Facebook messenger and their cell phones, so we remained safe while ironing out the details of staying at their condo.”
As an extra precaution, James said they are keeping the units vacant after each stay for a period of time and doing extensive cleaning as suggested by several organizations.
“After researching what we would have to do to sanitize any of our units after a stay, we decided to offer this donation to the Branson community and have other local owners offer to do the same,” James said. “We have also had individuals contact us about making donations to cover utility expenses for the tenants.”
One family they received a call from has to consider the timing of the move to the condo.
“I am a Physician Assistant (PA) who works in the Emergency Room at Cox Branson.” said Travis Bell. “A PA is a different kind of medical degree than MD or DO. I have a masters degree instead of doctorate, but I still pretty much take care of the same patients a doctor does in the ER. Everything from strokes and heart attacks to COVID-19 patients.”
Bell’s wife Bethany discovered Christopher online when they were looking for a place to stay. Timing is important to them.
“My wife is currently 20 weeks pregnant and I am trying to do everything I can to prevent her from getting sick and losing the baby,” Bell said. “I am sleeping in a different room from my wife and we try to keep our distance from each other while I am home.”
Bell said he is not concerned about his well being because he is a 30-year-old male and statistically the “death rate for a 30-year-old is only 2%.”
He says he does not pretend to know when this pandemic will be over.
“I hope all of this is over by August so I can be at the birth of my son and meet him in person,” Bell said. “I appreciate people like Christopher and Rachael supporting the health care community in this time of crisis. The community has always been encouraging and supportive but in times like these people like Christopher have really taken it to a new level.”
“All of us on our shift have been very humbled by the support of the community, in food donations, hand sewn masks, kind words of encouragement and, with Christopher, a safe clean place to stay, “Hickmann said.
The James’ have received numerous phone calls and the outpouring of support he has received from the online community has been overwhelming.
“We thought what we offered to do was common sense and it has really touched many people,” he said.
To contact Christopher James on Facebook go to facebook.com/christophergreenamyer.