Steve July 25, 2020
these-are-some-of-the-people-who-died-as-the-us-reopened

(CNN)Ninety-one thousand.

Ninety-one thousand lives snatched by an unrelenting pandemic since the first state in the US reopened on April 24.

Ninety-one thousand whose dreams were cut short, plans ended prematurely.

Each one a son or daughter. Someone’s uncle. A best friend. A person who left others to grieve, cry and try to carry on.

Three siblings reunited in March. It was the last time they saw their father alive

Noe Martinez Domingues passed away July 2 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Noe Martinez Domingues loved knowing how things worked.

His family moved to Dallas, Texas, from Mexico in 1990. To make ends meet, his daughter, Bethzabet Martinez Amador, says her father worked in several kitchens throughout the city, washing dishes or waiting tables. Then one day Domingues decided to do a home course in auto mechanics.

“I remember walking into our living room one morning and seeing my dad kneeling in front of an entire car motor,” Amador told CNN. “He had a small hydraulic floor crane that he had used to hang the motor. Needless to say, my mom was livid at him for bringing all of his tools into the house.”

Domingues sat Amador and her brothers down and explained how the motor worked — how each part contributed to this piece of machinery and made it whole.

Later, he made the siblings a go-kart out of an old lawn mower. By the time he completed his auto course, he had become well-known as the neighborhood mechanic.

As Amador grew up, the family spread out: Domingues in Nashville, Tennessee; Amador in Alexandria, Virginia; her brothers Kevin in California, and Jack in Tijuana, Mexico.

In March 2020 they reunited as a family — the first time in 22 years the three siblings and their dad had been in the same room. It would be the last time they’d see him in person.

Amador says her dad taught them to “work hard, to be honest and to have faith that no matter how bad life seems, one must continue on.”

“I miss my dad every day, and I’ll miss him now until my last dying breath.”

29-year-old mom leaves behind three children to raise

Samantha Diaz was worried about Florida reopening.

Samantha Diaz worried about going to work as a medical assistant during the pandemic But she went to the doctor’s office each day and took on extra shifts to help her family.

The 29-year-old lived in West Palm Beach, Florida, and she did not feel comfortable with the state reopening, her mother, Anadelia Diaz, told CNN.

On June 15, she called her mother saying she had a scratchy throat — she thought it was allergies. Days later, she spiked a fever. She also learned a coworker had tested positive for coronavirus, her mother said.

A week later, Diaz was admitted to the hospital and a quick test confirmed what she already knew: She had coronavirus.

Her mother took Diaz’s three children to be tested and two of them came back positive: 2-year-old Adriann and 1-year-old Anaya. Luckily, they only had a cough and a runny nose and their brother, 15-year-old Ricardo, was Covid-free.

Wearing a double mask and gloves, Diaz’s mother stayed in a bedroom with the two youngest grandchildren to care for them. Her husband, who has a preexisting condition, slept in the den. Her son and grandson quarantined in the other two bedrooms.

Samantha, who her mother called Sammy, passed away on July 10. Her mother said doctors tried everything from a ventilator to an ECMO machine, often called the “highest form of life support,” to circulate her blood through an artificial lung.

Diaz’s mother is left to raise her daughter’s three children. The family lives paycheck-to-paycheck and Diaz’s mother quit her job as a housekeeper to care for her grandchildren. A family friend created a GoFundMe page for the family.

Diaz’s mother refuses to send the children back to day care because she doesn’t feel that it is safe.

“I believe that if Florida would have shut down, my daughter would still be here,” she said.

DC radio host was a Sunday morning staple for 40 years

They lost their mom and dad just 15 days apart

Two young brothers from Houston said goodbye to their mother at the beginning of July, not knowing their father would also die 15 days later. Noehmi Esquivel, 39, and Carlos Garcia, 44, died after fighting Covid-19. Both had diabetes and other underlying conditions.

The boys, Nathan, 12, and Isaiah, 14, will now live with their uncle.

Their sons, Nathan, 12, and Isaiah, 14, will now live with their uncle, Jacob Mendoza.

“At least, since he (my father) passed, we get to be with our family,” Isaiah Garcia told CNN affiliate KTRK. “We don’t have to go to an orphanage or anything. I’d rather be here than anywhere else right now.”

He left the Navy after 26 years and became a nurse

When Keith A. Jones arrived at the nursing facility where he worked every night at 7 p.m., residents lined the hallway. Jones had been a licensed practical nurse for 16 years, and his patients listened to him more than they did their doctors, Jones’ sister says.

“They absolutely loved him,” Toni Jones Johnson told CNN. “Even when he got ill they were constantly asking for his whereabouts.”

Keith Jones was a Navy veteran who became a licensed practical nurse after he retired.

Johnson believes her brother caught the virus while at work. The Navy veteran started experiencing symptoms — shortness of breath, extreme fatigue — in late April. He was admitted to St. Mary’s Medical Center in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, and his large, close-knit family had a Zoom meeting with him while he was in the hospital. Johnson says he appeared to be as gregarious as ever. “No one ever considered him passing.”

Jones died of acute respiratory failure and pneumonia, complications from his Covid-19 infection, on May 9.

The day after Jones’ funeral, his 17-year-old son had to rush back to Florida for his high school graduation. It was an event Jones never would have missed had he been alive, Johnson says. He was an extremely dedicated father. “To lose him has been one of the most devastating things that could have happened to us.”

Jones works for the same medical company as her brother, as a radiologic technologist. She is steadfastly against states reopening as they have been. “That is incorrigible. The frontline (workers are) already exhausted, mentally, physically, emotionally … nobody thinks of them,” she said. She’s afraid another wave of cases will hit their area. “At that point I will retire. I cannot do this again.”

Siblings shared a love for homemade tamales and telenovelas

Three sisters, Rita Haro, Jose

After a lifetime of being close, three siblings fell ill to the same virus and died within seven days of each other.

Rita Haro, Jose “Chico” Haro and Manuela “Nellie” Johnson were three of 20 siblings. Michael Thomson refers to his great aunts and great uncle as Tia or Tio, which are Spanish for aunt and uncle.

Rita and Nellie lived with their sister Delores in a small house in Tucson, Arizona, a state where coronavirus cases have been surging. All three sisters tested positive for the virus in June, Thomson said. He believes they caught it from the few unmasked visitors who came to check on them, or when Nellie and her family stopped at some casinos while driving back from Washington state.

Chico and his son tested positive for the virus, Thomson said. Out of the five family members who got sick, only his Tia Delores survived.

Rita passed away on July 3, Chico died on July 8 and Nellie died a day later on July 9.

From the boxes of fruit empanadas they ordered from a bakery to the homemade tamales they lovingly crafted, there was a lot of amazing food in their home.

Thomson’s great aunts used to make green chili and pea tamales in a white corn masa to pair with fried eggs. Thomson said they sold tamales to make extra money. Nellie was even remembered as a “tamalagist” in her obituary.

Seeing the siblings huddled together watching their favorite telenovelas was one of Thomson’s fondest memories.

“We would be up late watching Mexican soap operas and they would just huddle around this little 13-inch TV in their kitchen,” Thomson said. “Just having that simple life made me warm in inside.”

She tried to do everything right to stay safe

Donna Mitchell never forgot a birthday. Above all else, she loved being surrounded by her family.

She made her life as a homemaker, raising her son and daughter, but also making time for her nieces and nephews, her niece Kim Teager said.

“She was the heart and soul of our family,” Teager said. After Teager’s grandparents died, her aunt took on the role of family matriarch.

“Now that she’s gone, it’s like there’s a hole in our family.”

Donna Mitchell's death

The Culver City, California, resident was like the “leader of the neighborhood,” organizing potlucks, lending an ear to neighbors who needed to talk and even becoming a surrogate grandmother to the children next door, Teager said.

Mitchell, 71, was a talented baker, a voracious reader and a volunteer. She was the president of the PTA of her local middle and high schools, as well as the school district.

One of her biggest accomplishments was launching a book club, in which she participated for more than 20 years and read more than 200 books, her obituary said.

Mitchell did the right things to stay safe. She stayed home and her husband went to the grocery store, as she had a compromised immune system. An artery burst in her heart in 2017 and her kidneys stopped functioning, which left her needing dialysis.

Her family believes Mitchell may have gotten the virus from going to her dialysis treatments three times a week, but there’s no way to know.

“I feel like she might still be here if people weren’t so careless,” her niece said.

California father leaves behind six children

A month before her death, she preached about our fractured nation

In her last sermon in early June, the Rev. Vickey Gibbs described what she called a fractured nation, and the impact of coronavirus on her community in Houston, Texas. A little more than a month later, on July 10, the progressive pastor died of pneumonia stemming from a Covid-19, her wife Cassandra White says. Gibbs was 57.

The Rev. Vickey Gibbs was ordained in December 2014 and became an associate pastor in 2015.

She was beloved by her community, so much so that her friends, family and churchgoers from Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church created a Facebook group after her death. Hundreds of members shared memories, photographs and thoughts about her and her impact on their community.

White said she’ll miss Gibbs’ passion for social justice as well as her ability to whip up colorful, beautiful breakfasts for them to eat together. White said her wife would try to call out racism in daily life and participated in countless marches and events in Houston, even though she knew that she would get sick because of her lupus.

She died in her daughter’s arms on their way to the hospital

Hortencia Laurens died just days after her diagnosis, wrapped in her daughter's arms.

Hortencia Laurens was nearing her 70th birthday when she was diagnosed with coronavirus on July 2. Her family was set to go on their annual trip to the west coast of Florida when Laurens started to feel unwell, her grandson, Diego Fereira, told CNN.

Laurens passed away less than a week later in an ambulance on the way to the hospital, wrapped in her daughter’s arms. Friends and family gathered virtually to mourn the matriarch from afar.

All the money Laurens made as a personal home caretaker for the elderly, Fereira said, she sent back to her sons and daughters in Colombia and Venezuela, where she immigrated from, hoping for a more comfortable life and better health care.

Fereira lives close to the hospital his grandmother was rushed to in her last moments, and said he relives her death every day.

“I hear ambulances going to that hospital once every one to two hours,” he said. As he listens to the ambulances, Fereira said he is frustrated to see people going about without masks as if nothing were different.

“I feel like all medical services are so overwhelmed right now,” he said. “Our medical professionals need some kind of back up.”

It was her job to help others find their breath. Then the virus took hers

Isabelle Papadimitriou was a dedicated respiratory therapist who worked to help others breathe. When coronavirus robbed the 64-year-old of her breath, her daughter Fiana Tulip knew she had to speak out.

Isabelle Papadimitriou, 64, died of the coronavirus in Texas. Her daughter blamed Gov. Greg Abbott and invited him to her mother's burial.

In her mother’s obituary, she wrote of Papadimitriou’s love of the flute, her two dogs, Shadow and Gauner, and how “the carelessness of politicians” led to her mother’s “undeserving death.”

“Isabelle was a giant, and powerful in her kindness. She made a difference each and every day in many people’s lives. And like hundreds and thousands of others, she should still be alive today,” Tulip wrote.

In the Austin American-Statesman, Tulip blamed Texas leaders for their “inability and unwillingness to give clear and decisive direction on how to minimize the risks of the coronavirus.”

Tulip is not the first to write this kind of obituary during the pandemic.

Florida siblings die within 11 days of each other

Monete Hicks lost two of her children to the virus in less than two weeks.

Byron, 20, and Mychaela, 23, of Lauderhill, Florida, had health issues but were fine and had been staying home in early June, their mom said. Then they took a trip to Orlando.

Byron had trouble breathing when he woke up one Saturday. Paramedics rushed him to the hospital but he died a few hours later. His sister started feeling ill the following Tuesday.

Byron was a gamer who loved his games and his family, his cousin, Darisha Scott, said. He was “very funny, just the goofball of the family.” Mychaela had a smile that could light up a room.

    “All I can say is, take this, take this (virus) very seriously, because it’s real, it’s out there,” Monete Hicks said.

    For 100 more stories of people we’ve lost during the Covid-19 pandemic, click here.

    CNN’s Allison Gordon, Madeline Holcombe, Lauren M. Johnson, Charlitta Rodrigues, Samantha Waldenberg and David Williams contributed to this story.

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