Tag Archives: COVID-19

HOUSTON RESTAURANT OWNER FEEDS FIRST RESPONDERS AND HOSPITALITY WORKERS IN RESPONSE TO COVID-19

Every Tuesday from 5 to 7 p.m, two men in surgical masks and gloves stand outside The Tasting Room restaurant and wine bar in Uptown Park, a fashionable outdoor retail center located near the heart of Houston. 

Just a few months ago this upscale retail center was bustling with people headed into artisan craft stores or to their restaurant reservations. The Tasting Room’s sprawling gazebo outdoor seating area would have been full of such people. There would be sounds of conversation, the clatter of silverware and the clinking together of elegant glasses that would have held any one of the restaurant’s vast assortment of wines. 

Now, the only sound is the steady hum of cars zipping by on the I-610. 

One of the masked men standing in the Texas heat is none other than Jerry Lasco, owner of The Tasting Room. After a few minutes, a car slowly pulls up next to the restaurant and Jerry exchanges a few friendly words with the driver. 

Between the baseball cap and the surgical mask, you can only see a thin sliver of his face, but his crinkling eyes tell you he’s smiling. 

Lasco hands the driver a bag containing four freshly made lasagna dinners through the car window.  He does the same thing for the next car and then the next.

“We say hi and ask how they are doing. Most are struggling but hanging in there. They are extremely grateful and appreciative,” Lasco said. 

The people pulling up outside of Lasco’s restaurant are all hospitality workers who have been without a source of income since the state-mandated restaurant shutdowns as a result of COVID-19. 

“I’d say the most valuable commodity to any business, at least any business that relies on a staff, are the employees. It’s a small gesture, but it’s meaningful if you’re in a very tight situation, and some of our folks frankly are, they live paycheck to paycheck,” Lasco said. 

As a restaurant owner himself, Lasco said he had no choice but to furlough 90% of his own staff, not just at this location but at all eight of the restaurants in Texas that his company, Lasco Enterprises, owns. 

“We just talked about how we don’t know how long this is going to last, we don’t know how severe this is going to be, you know, this is how much money we have in the bank,” Lasco said. 

Courtesy of Jerry Lasco

Even before Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order to shut down restaurants on March 19, people in Texas had already begun the process of transitioning their lives behind the defensive barriers of their own homes. Offices, schools and universities were closing across the country and people began to retreat from public gatherings. The astoundingly low numbers Lasco was reading from revenue earned the previous week showed what he and his co-workers already knew to be true — restaurants were going to have to shut down very soon. 

“There was a lot of accounting that had to be done to figure out, what can we do to survive?”

Jerry Lasco’s area of expertise was in operations, and he would usually spend his days making sure his restaurants were well supplied and that they were generating revenue– but with all of his restaurants closed except for takeout, what operations were there left for him to run? His wife Laura Lasco, vice president of the company, sat in the office neighboring his, busily trying to sort out human resources and legal issues. Jerry spun in his swivel chair, feeling a little lost.

“I felt a little helpless because my job really was taken away,” Jerry said. 

The man helping Jerry hand out free meals for the hospitality workers and their families is Dave Berry, the first person to donate to Lasco Enterprises. He donated $1,000, to which Jerry matched with another $1,000 to provide free meals to his own staff. 

“We went two weeks without the GoFundMe account and I was pressing him, really his PR people, to get that set up,” Berry said. 

The Gofundme page Jerry and his PR team created, titled “Feeding Houston’s Hospitality and First Responders,” raised $21,372 in donations from 86 donors, exceeding its reach goal of $20,000. The donations, along with some additional funding from Lasco Enterprises, have allowed Jerry and Berry to provide 500 free meals a week to not only Lasco employees but anyone in the hospitality industry who drops by the restaurant. 

“I was really just winging it and wrote about what we wanted to do and what our vision was and hit send and next thing you know, it took off. I started getting tons of emails,” Jerry Lasco said.

After providing meals to hospitality workers and their families for a few weeks, Jerry received an email from Sgt. Brian “BK” Klevens with a proposal to expand the free dinner program to first responders and health care workers at a second restaurant location. 

Beyond Kleven’s work at the Houston Police Department, he has been an avid supporter of the first responder community, donating to various causes, hosting fundraisers and even opening a law enforcement themed tattoo parlour called Prison Break Tattoos. About 95% of his clientele are first responders looking to get a tattoo meaningful to their work, according to Klevens. Prison Break Tattoos even has an A&E network reality TV show called Hero Ink.

“The Houston community has been great. Any opportunity that people have had to give back — that’s what they’ve done,” Klevens said. 

Over several years of hosting benefits for the first responder community, he had become very familiar with another Lasco Enterprises restaurant, located just a two-minute drive away from his tattoo parlour, called Max’s Wine Dive. Now, every Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m. Jerry Lasco and his 16-year-old son, Max, can be found handing out individual  meals to first responders at Max’s Wine Dive on Washington Avenue. 

“After being quarantined for so long, I truly lost perspective  of the world around me and being out there truly reminded me of the challenging times people are overcoming. It really was an honor to give back to these people who risk their lives to help others,” Max Lasco said. 

Restaurants, movie theaters, retail centers and churches have all been permitted to reopen at 25% capacity as of May 1. Aside from his Austin location, Jerry Lasco has reopened all his restaurants with a “skeleton crew” but is still keeping the free meal programs.

“We’re willing to do it as long as people still need it,” Jerry said.

Featured image courtesy of Unsplash.com

Coronavirus album review

Well folks, we’ve done it now. Somebody took the name Coronavirus on Spotify and is pushing out albums themed – you guessed it – coronavirus (COVID-19). From hits such as “Hand Sanitizer” to “Cruise Ship,” this artist’s music is contagious. Don’t let the meager 25 Instagram followers and 8,674 monthly listeners fool you, this will be going coronaviral soon. 

To quote Trevor Noah, “started from the Wuhan, now we here” perfectly sums up Coronavirus’ humble beginnings to major success. What we experience as a pandemic is really just Coronavirus spreading itself all over the top charts and dropping a sick beat. So without further ado, I’ll be reviewing top tracks from Coronavirus’ latest album, “Pandemic.” 

  1. Pray for the World

Clearly inspired by the first track on the “COVID-19” album called “Pray for Wuhan,” Coronavirus takes it global with its new hit “Pray for the World.” For 4 minutes and 19 seconds Coronavirus explains to us why we need to pray for the world because we’ve got “diseases and violence and tyrants and all that stuff.” What a great message! Critically though, Coronavirus sounds like they have a bit of a sore throat in this song — but can you blame them?

Favorite lyric: that day you fall, you never know what’s gonna happen’ so Coronavirus is just gon’ sit here and be rappin’

2. Hand Sanitizer

In this classic hit Coronavirus advocates for keeping your hands clean, rants about the rising prices of hand sanitizer and then goes off in another direction about covering his genitals in hand sanitizer. * slow clap * Truly inspiring. (Ngl the beat is fire though)

Favorite lyric: you gotta pay a hundred bucks for some hand sanitizuh, it’s just f*cking alcohol and aloe veruh make yuh own!

2nd favorite lyric: Kind of wish this song didn’t exist. (Me too Coronavirus, me too)

Courtesy of Unsplash


3. Cover Your Mouth

“Just stop. Please. Cover. Your mouth.” This line pretty much sums up the whole song. When Coronavirus itself has to tell you that you should be covering your mouth, please just cover your mouth. 

Courtesy of Unsplash

Favorite lyric: you take a shit and then wipe your motherf*!king butt and then you go and just leave, close the door shut, but guess what? You forgot one thing – to f*#king wash your handssssss!

4. Martial Law

I think Coronavirus just straight up forgot the music and punctuation on this one. Just went up to the mic and started freestyling to silence about martial law and then trailed off into a regular conversation for a few minutes about how Coronavirus is the most conscious rapper and how people need to maintain their dignity. It was all good until Coronavirus ended by telling people that they should kill each other to protect themselves, but this is Coronavirus, what did you expect? 

Favorite lyric: You gotta be careful with the martial law ‘cause you aren’t the law…better stay inside.

5. Prepare (Stock up)

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Damn, you got a fever of over 100˚F? That’s because this song is so hot. While toilet paper is not an essential (despite what some Australians may believe), Coronavirus wants to let everyone in this song know that they should stock up on essentials such as food and water. 

Favorite lyric: You don’t wanna run out of nothin’ because when you run out of somethin’ you end up with nothin’

If you want to hear more, you can find Coronavirus on Spotify or anywhere really – it spreads fast. In coronavirus fashion, there is more than just one. There are actually two other artists on Spotify also named Coronavirus. What did I tell you – it’s going coronaviral. 

10 activities for long distance couples

Courtesy of Canva

For those of us who haven’t experienced a long distance relationship, the prospect of keeping your relationship alive during what could potentially be months of self isolation seems daunting. Even if you are still choosing to see your significant other during this time, there aren’t a lot of fun date options right now. You can’t go to a movie, a restaurant, a bowling alley, don’t you dare try to go to a bar and an arcade is already unsanitary enough even without COVID-19 floating around. At the end of the day, remember that self isolation isn’t just about your own health, but the health of your community. When you’re in a relationship, staying at home instead of going out to see your partner can feel like the end of the world, but there are so many things that you can still do together without being together:

1. Play a drinking game

Courtesy of Pexels

If you’re still hellbent on wilding out this break, you can play all sorts of drinking games with your partner over video chatting (you can even make beer pong work.) The added bonus is that the drunk conversations will be fun and you can even skip down to item #8 on this checklist and play 20 Questions. 

2. Make mixtapes

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This is a romantic classic that never fails to make someone’s day. You can make playlists to different themes, spelling out sentences in song titles or just compiling songs that you think they’d like. Personally, I love listening to new music recommendations, especially made by someone who knows you very well. 

3. Watch movies simultaneously 

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There are plenty of websites that will allow you to do this and if your internet happens to be really good, screen sharing the movie will work just as well. Watching a movie alone is good, but reacting with your partner to the movie is much more fun. 

4. Mail a letter

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Ever heard of snail mail? While texting is always great, having something physical and handwritten to hold onto is much more memorable. You can even send them a gift or drawing! (Just don’t sneeze on anything.)

5. Set fitness goals for each other

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Doing the same workouts or setting fitness goals for one another will help you both stay motivated, connected and positive during self isolation/social distancing.

6. Play video games together

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Transport yourself from off your couch and into a virtual world to go on a quest (or just build a farm if those are your kind of games) with your partner. You can talk to each other while playing and there are so many different video games to choose from! If you need some inspiration, check out our article on some freshly released video games.

7. Write a story sentence by sentence 

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This can be a good way to pass the time and get creative with your significant other. You can expand upon an absurd plot going back and forth sentence by sentence, it’ll give you a lot of laughs and inside jokes. 

8. Play 20 Questions

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A time killer and a relationship builder, playing 20 questions will spur conversations (or confessions) that you’ve likely never had or shared before. 

9. Get artsy 

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Video chat your partner while you both try to follow a DIY video, then compare finished products. 

10. Share screens

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Share screens on your device and go on a YouTube/Tiktok/meme binge together.


Things to Do While Social Distancing

The past few weeks have been a difficult and often scary time. Between UT’s shift to online classes and the continuously changing state of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), it’s easy to get overwhelmed and feel anxious or hopeless. One thing that we all can do to help slow the spread, or “flatten the curve,” is to take part in social distancing.

 Social distancing can look a bit different for everyone, but basically it boils down to limiting interactions with people and keeping a distance between you of at least six feet when you can’t go without that interaction entirely. It can be tempting to want to go out and socialize or still take part in spring break plans, but this issue is beyond us as individuals. For the sake of public health, we need to do our part and stay home. Obviously, this can get boring pretty quickly. Here are things to do to fight boredom while practicing social distancing.

Start Your Spring Cleaning

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

I’d like to think everyone else has a drawer that is always a junk drawer. Whether you have old clothes sitting in your closet or a dresser that needs dusting, though, cleaning is both a time consuming and productive thing to do. If you have a big area to cover, try breaking it up into pieces to conquer throughout the week. Even if you aren’t one of those people who find it relaxing (I certainly don’t), there’s likely to be a sense of accomplishment when it’s all said and done. 

Make a Vision Board

Photo by Courtney Smith

A vision board is a great way to set intentions and put your desires onto something tangible. The great thing about this activity is that it can be as elaborate or simple as you want it to be. I already have a large vision board made of a cork board, scrapbook paper, and magazine images, but I decided to make a smaller one to add to it. As individuals we are always changing, so this is an activity that can be done multiple times whether you’ve made it with long term goals and dreams or short term ideas. All you need is a surface such as a piece of paper/poster board/cork board, magazines or internet images to cut out, and glue/thumb tacks to secure the images. If you’re artsy you could even add paint or drawings to your vision board. This is also a great way to take your mind off of the craziness of the day and think about things you’d like to do for yourself. 

Host a FaceTime Party

Photo courtesy of Jan Vašek from Pixabay

Even if you’re social distancing with your roommates or family members, it can still feel lonely and dull. For those having to leave the dorms or other living arrangements near campus, it can feel like you’re being ripped away from your friends, support system, and overall routine. Luckily we have technology at our fingertips that can help us reconnect. Text your friends/family and set up a FaceTime date. Grab some snacks, get comfortable, make sure your device is charged, and keep each other company! You could also try playing a game or watching a movie “together” if catching up feels repetitive.

Get Outdoors

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Avoid getting stir crazy by making it a point to go outside everyday. According to this Time article, going outside can lower stress, decrease blood pressure, and improve your overall mood. Walking your dog, going for a morning/evening walk, visiting a spacious park, drinking your coffee outside, opening up a window, having a picnic in your backyard, outdoor yoga, going for a run, or riding a bike are just a small sample of things you can do to get outside.

Workout for Free (and at home) with YouTube

YouTube

Instead of going to the gym, try something new from the comfort of your home. YouTube is a great way to get fit for free and there are literally hundreds of channels to choose from. If you’re looking for a quick, high energy workout, I recommend the Body Coach TV. Joe Wicks is the “Body Coach” and is probably the only person who can make me smile while doing a plank. His specialty is HIIT workouts and he has a huge variety of videos to try. For pilates or yoga, checkout Boho Beautiful or Yoga With Adriene. The Boho Beautiful videos are always in a unique destination that can either give you some future travel inspiration or help you pretend like you’re in Bali. Adriene from Yoga With Adriene is Austin based, so you can support a local yogi by watching her videos.

Bake

Photo courtesy of Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels

Baking is another way to pass time that is productive, entertaining, and (hopefully) delicious. Whether you fancy yourself a future Food Network star or barely know what a whisk is, now is a great time to get cooking. Try and use what you have to avoid going out in crowds. If you don’t have a favorite recipe to whip up, these cookie recipes by Tasty can be made using cake mix and are both easy and delicious. Wanting to make something from scratch? This chocolate cake recipe or these pumpkin chocolate chip cookies are two of my absolute favorite recipes. 

Start a New Show/Book

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Although the adrenaline rush of binge watching a series when you have an exam coming up may not be there, it’s still a great time to start a new series or begin reading a book. It doesn’t have to be actually “new,” either. Never understood the hype of The Office because you’ve never seen it? Now’s your chance. Wanted to read Michelle Obama’s book but didn’t have the time? Well, now you do. 

Journal

Photo courtesy of Plush Design Studio from Pexels

Journaling can be both a creative outlet as well as a therapeutic release during times of stress or uncertainty. It can sometimes be difficult to keep up with a traditional journal or know what to write so if that isn’t your thing, try using a bullet journal or a prompting/list journal. I love this reflections and intentions journal because it has fill in the blank prompts for things like gratitudes, reflections, and mood while being flexible enough so if you miss a day it is no big deal. Plus, it’s designed to be used in the morning and again at night, making it more of an activity that you can add into your new routine. A bullet journal can be bought online for relatively cheap and is a great option for those looking to tailor the journaling experience with a bit more creativity and freedom to doodle. There is a ton of inspiration for bullet journals on Instagram and Pinterest, too!

Social distancing is an important part of slowing the spread of the Coronavirus, but it can be difficult emotionally. It’s important to remember that you aren’t alone and, while it may not always seem like it, staying home is one of the biggest ways you can contribute right now. It’s also important to recognize that while getting things done while at home can feel like a valuable way to pass time, it’s okay if you aren’t “productive.” Taking care of your mental health is just as important and that can look different for everyone.

 If you’re struggling with finding things to do while staying in, try the tips above or come up with some ideas of your own and don’t forget to let us know on social media how you’re social distancing! 

Featured image courtesy of Alessio Cesario from Pexels