For almost two months, the Dallas-Fort Worth area has been coping with the fallout of the coronavirus, and one essential industry that never broke its pace is construction.
In fact, the Dallas Builders Association was at the forefront of the industry’s response, organizing compliance efforts for the new social distancing guidelines, doing hand sanitizer and mask drives, and maintaining advocacy efforts.
But few may know that in the early days of COVID-19’s descent on D-FW, the leader at the helm of the Dallas Builders Association was sick with the very same virus that was wreaking havoc on our region.
While being ill with COVID-19 was a terrible struggle for DBA Executive Officer Phil Crone, his story of recovery and perspective is inspiring, to say the least, and we’re grateful that he shared his story with us.
The worst part of COVID-19 for me was the timing.
It came when the world was being turned upside down. There was a real threat of a construction shutdown in Dallas and I needed to be at my best to keep that from happening, inform our members, and adjust our operations.
In hindsight, my first symptoms were probably on March 21. That Saturday, I went out for my long weekend run. I had planned on going 16 miles but had to cut it short around 12. I was exhausted.
I chalked it up to stress. I never get sick unless I worry myself sick, so I figured I had just done an especially good job of it this time. The following night I felt a little feverish, but there were more pressing things to worry about.
We sent our staff home the previous Friday. I made it through Monday by myself in the office. On Tuesday, I passed out twice on the office floor in a chilled sweaty mess. Wednesday wasn’t much better, so I finally gave up gathered my stuff and went home.
For the rest of that week, I experienced flu-like symptoms. About 3 or 4 days of extreme fatigue followed before I improved.
It was an ordeal getting a test. I finally got one and tested positive when I was well on the road to recovery. Before that, I really didn’t think I had COVID. I know that sounds crazy given those symptoms, but I hadn’t traveled or done the things they thought made you susceptible at the time.
Getting the diagnosis was hard. Not for me — I knew I was going to be ok — but I worried that I may have infected someone else.
Spousal Support Was Key
I can be pretty stubborn (and cranky when I’m not feeling well). My wife Heidi is a teacher at The Hockaday School who herself was dealing with a lot of transitions at the time. Despite that, she got me everything I needed, which included every known type of sports drink. I’m eternally grateful for her love and support.
Luckily, she never showed any symptoms despite being stuck with me.
Also incredible was the staff and leadership at the Dallas Builders Association. We had a ton of serious issues to deal with — getting key messages out to our members, resetting our events, financial planning, and adjusting quickly to a remote workplace. Our staff rose to the occasion and proved why they are the very best in the nation.
Adapting To a Home-Based Office
Working from home was very difficult for me. It wasn’t efficient or comfortable and the pantry was too close.
Our staff fared much better than I did. They adapted quickly and didn’t miss a beat. They aced one of the biggest tests our industry and our association has ever had.
Undoubtedly, this has changed the business model for the Dallas Builders Association. We have so many in-person events that are now sidelined. Hopefully, we can have a few them later in the year.
The advocacy, information, and education we provide is more important now than ever. Homes are now our schools, playgrounds, and sanctuaries, so I’m proud we were able to keep housing essential and that we are empowering our members to keep it safe and professional. For example, we distributed about 1,000 gallons of hand sanitizer and are looking to get another 2,500 on to area job sites along with gloves and masks.
A Changing Outlook
See opportunity in every difficulty — I hope all housing advocates take that to heart.
We live in a great place; our market has all the fundamentals to bounce back. The pandemic is going to change buyer preferences and so many other ways we view home in the months and years ahead. Careers will be defined from the innovations that are going to come to our industry as a result of this.
I’m not naturally an optimistic person. My grandmother taught me how to be. I still learn from her as I reflect on how she made the most of every challenge and adventure that came her way. Her generation and the one before that had it way worse than we do. Having perspective and good role models are really important right now.
Heidi is a P.E. teacher and she’s done a good job of whipping me into shape these past few years. Discovering running and focusing on fitness had me well-prepared to fight this off.
Reactions From Community Run The Gamut
My mom cried, our builders had some great sarcastic jokes, and everyone is really supportive. I’ve been open about my experience with COVID-19 because I want people to know that a large majority of people end up just fine like Heidi and me.
At the same time, I’m keenly aware of the terrible toll the virus is taking, especially on older people. That’s why I’ve started convalescent plasma donations. I’m grateful I can help someone having a harder time with it than I did.