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Austin patrol Officer Ross Pranter woke up on the last Friday in March with no sense of taste or smell.
Three weeks in quarantine and recovery later, Pranter returned to his South Central Austin patrol shift feeling happy, healthy, cautious—and lucky, because his bout with COVID-19 had been uneventful.
Even so, he said Friday, "I wouldn't wish this on anybody."
Pranter, 37, is the only local police officer to be diagnosed with the disease caused by the coronavirus. Officials have not determined where he got it, but do not rule out the possibility he caught it from a member of the community during a patrol shift.
The loss of his taste and smell didn't immediately trigger a red flag with Pranter because he sometimes experiences that with allergies, he said, and because it wasn't a widely known symptom at the time.
When his wife called with that update later that afternoon, Pranter alerted his supervisor and went home.
On Monday, his test came back positive—and Pranter and his entire South Central Austin patrol shift were quarantined for two weeks. No one else on his shift caught the virus.
A healthy-looking Pranter returned to work on Friday wearing a face mask and telling his muffled story of recovery outside police headquarters. His message: Stay cautious, flatten the curve, obey social distancing, and watch your own body for signs that something is not right. Best to catch it early and avoid contaminating others who may not be so well-equipped to fight it off.
Behind him, volunteers handed out barbecue lunches to police officers, a charity-event-turned-welcome-back-party.
"Today we celebrate," said Ken Casaday, president of the Austin Police Association. "We're very blessed and happy to have him back without him having to suffer [any major symptoms]."
Pranter said he did not experience a fever and did not have to be hospitalized, but said he had feelings of nausea and anxiety in addition to his sensory loss. It was a miserable feeling, even though his symptoms were mild, he said.
The loss of his senses was especially strange, he said—hard to swallow, a cotton-mouth feeling, and food tasted bad.
"You can't taste it, but you can tell something is not right," he said.
As to how he caught it, he said, he recalls a person he came into contact with on a call, who appeared to have symptoms, but nothing was confirmed. The 911 call was placed by a neighbor who was unable to answer screening questions on the phone about the subject's health, police said.
Police have been wearing personal protective gear and practicing social distancing since at least mid-March.
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Summertime sure does fly by, doesn't it? It's time to jam-pack as many summer activities as you can while there is still about a month left before school starts up again and the grind gets going. Luckily, Austin is full of places to visit that will fill your season full of memories.
To get you started, check out some of these seasonably-fit museums, galleries and snacks.
Beyond Van Gogh, 9201 Circuit of the Americas Blvd.
Like the name suggests, Beyond Van Gogh Austin takes visitors deeper into the Dutch painter's work by surrounding them in his post-impressionist world. Aptly taking place at the Starry Night Pavilion at the Circuit of the Americas, this immersive exhibit allows Vincent Van Gogh's masterpieces to be "freed from frames" as they are projected onto the walls and floors for guests to explore. Van Gogh's thoughts, dreams and words are set to a symphonic score to drive the narrative as you walk through the rooms, giving visitors insight into the tortured artist's swirly world. Adult tickets start at $46.99, children at $28.99 and it offers student and military discounts while the museum runs through Sept. 5.
Museum of Ice Cream, 11506 Century Oaks Terrace
The runaway hit from New York City has made its way to Austin, complete with a rainbow sprinkle pool, banana forest and bright-pink-everything exterior. The Museum of Ice Cream is a favorite of major celebrities—Beyoncé, Ryan Reynolds and the Kardashian Krew have all been spotted at the New York Location. The whimsical museum promises an undisclosed "Texas twist" at its new Austin location, which also has an on-brand café that serves Museum of Ice Cream original treats. You didn't think you'd leave without ice cream, did you? Tickets run $39 per person.
The Selfie Galleries, 3220 Amy Donovan Plaza
Looking for a place to get that perfect summer selfie? Look no further, because the newly-opened Selfie Galleries has 20 wildly decorated different rooms to roam through, capturing an unforgettable photo of yourself and your faves in each one. The backdrops were made so you can flex your creative muscle and make some documented memories at the same time. The gallery also hosts mixers for all age groups so you can meet local Austinites in a safe setting. Tickets start at $20 for an hour, $40 for two, depending on how many people you bring along.
Wonderspaces, 1205 Sheldon Cove
The self-proclaimed "new home for extraordinary art," Wonderspaces is an interactive art gallery like you've never experienced before. With rotating exhibits that you can touch, Instagram and ogle, the artwork is designed for everyone to create their own unique experience when visiting. Virtual reality, a house of mirrors, anonymous conversations and a dragon made of teabags are just a few of the wild installations that make this museum what it is—plus, you can enjoy some local brews at the Wonderspaces Bar. Adults can visit for $24, kids for $15 or you can get an annual pass for $99 and visit each new piece.
Milk Bar Bakery, delivery only
Maybe you want an experience without the outing. Thanks to ghost kitchens, the brainchild of Christina Tosi came all the way from The Big Apple to the Lone Star State. The well-celebrated Milk Bar Bakery is now available in Austin through third-party delivery only, meaning you can get the full line of milk bar cookies, bar pie, truffle crumb cakes and its famous layered birthday cakes through UberEats, GrubHub, DoorDash and Postmates only. If you haven't had these rich cookies yet, it's time to fire up that delivery app and get to ordering!
Soak up the rest of summer while you can!