More than 220,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the United States and their families continue to grieve.
Denise Price, a mental health counselor from Louisville, Kentucky, says that she and several of her family members contracted COVID-19 in August and have since recovered. But her 90-year-old father, Everett "Boone" Pike, unfortunately did not.
Pike, a retired police officer, was a healthy and active 90-year-old, she says. His doctor told him in February that he was a “poster boy for senior citizens,” she recalls.
He devotedly attended church four times a week, had plenty of friends, raised beagles and tended to his livestock on the family’s 80-acre farm, she says. On the day he went to the hospital, she says he had already rode his stationary bike for five miles and cut five acres of grass on the farm.
Price’s family members who contracted COVID-19 all had similar symptoms — a low-grade fever that resembled a sinus infection, she says. One of her brothers monitored her dad’s temperature and oxygen everyday and noticed a dip in his oxygen levels, a cause for concern. She says it took about an hour to persuade her dad to go to the hospital.
“He said, ‘I know how this ends. I'll never be back again,’ ” she says. “... So that was the beginning of our nightmare.”
Her father’s prediction was right. Alone in the hospital, Pike died from the coronavirus on Sept. 14.
Price believes the family got the virus after their mother, Shirley Pike, and one of her brothers went to Shirley’s annual doctor’s appointment. In the waiting room, there were no social distancing measures taken and three patients weren’t wearing masks, she says. Although it made her mother and brother feel uneasy, they stayed for the appointment — a decision her brother regrets, she says.
Shirley Pike survived COVID-19, but her dementia makes it hard for her to deliver an emotional response to the passing of her husband, Price says. She says her mom asks, “When is Jesus gonna come take me back to be with your dad?”
Price has found some comfort through Facebook support pages, specifically one called “Covid-19 Victims' Family and Friends Support Group.” A majority of folks in her Facebook support groups “didn't really get to say goodbye to our loved one,” she says. “We didn't get to support them, hover over them, nurture them. And that is just really, really hard to live with.”
For many, the upcoming election is a referendum on who will lead the U.S. through the rest of the pandemic. Price says when thinking about what happened to her father and seeing how President Trump has handled the crisis, she’s moved from tears to anger.
“I think Mr. Trump is responsible for the great losses that we have suffered,” she says. “He is our commander in chief, and he has not only failed, grossly failed, to step up and put practices and policies in place to protect us from COVID, he's done just the opposite. He minimizes COVID.”
Trump’s leadership has left her feeling “hopeless” as she mourns the loss of her father, she says.
Since her dad’s passing, Price has taken action to help others. She started a petition called “The COVID-19 Guardian Angel Project” to change hospital practices so coronavirus patients have access to physical visitations with loved ones, among other demands. And Price now wears a mask that reads “My father died of COVID-19” to send a strong message and increase awareness wherever she goes.
“To the rest of the world that hasn't experienced this, I want people to see my dad was not a number. He's not an abstract concept. He's not a nobody,” she says. “This was a man who was a father that had a life [and] was an important human being. And COVID took that from him and from us.”
This segment aired on October 22, 2020.