The Roberts family -- mother Sheryl, father Paul, and their daughter, Elaine -- are all sick with the respiratory illness caused by the pathogen being colloquially referred to as the "novel coronavirus." The two elderly parents are having a worse reaction. Sheryl was, at one time, experiencing severe psychiatric symptoms and was even believed to be suicidal. Her symptoms may have been the result of the illness itself, the medicines treating it, or a combination of the two. She's currently improving, while Paul remains on a ventilator, suffering from paralysis and kidney failure.
Though no one knows for certain how the coronavirus made its way into the family, it's possible that Elaine, 35, brought the pathogen home from her job at a Randalls grocery store in the Houston suburbs.
Elaine had been conscientious about taking all precautions against picking up and spreading the coronavirus. She stopped riding the bus and instead got rides to work. She wore gloves and a face mask while stocking and bagging groceries, per The New York Times.
However, while she wore a mask at the grocery store, many customers did not. Indeed, while Elaine was working, Texas Governor Greg Abbott steadfastly refused to issue a statewide mask mandate and even prevented local municipalities from enforcing mask requirements -- a policy that has now changed.
At Elaine's workplace, there was little enforcement of masks other than a sign asking customers to wear them. Her manager, Cindy Fletcher, said it was "kind of 50-50" when it came to customers wearing the face coverings.
Elaine's older sister, Sidra Roman, blames the shoppers who didn't wear masks for sickening her sister and parents.
"Wearing a piece of cloth, it's a little uncomfortable. It's a lot less uncomfortable than ventilators, dialysis lines, all of those things that have had to happen to my father. And it's not necessarily you that's going to get sick and get hurt," she said.
Dr. Pat Herlihy, chief of critical care at Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center, noted that the medical community in Texas initially thought the surge in coronavirus cases in the state would be limited mostly to people under 40 -- those most likely to patronize bars -- and that they would most likely have milder symptoms.
However, it hasn't worked out that way.
"We're right there now with super, super sick people," Herlihy said.