For weeks, health officials warned that a record surge in infections would be followed by rising hospitalizations and deaths. Their fears materialized in late November, as rampant community spread and Thanksgiving travel gave way to a return of the virus to the region’s nursing homes and a steady rise in fatalities not seen since the spring.
The seven-day average in daily reported deaths exceeded 60 this week — the highest since June. Given that new daily infections have continued pushing higher, and that deaths tend to lag cases by two weeks, the increase in fatalities is likely to continue.
As of Thursday, about 340 of every 10,000 people in the region had tested positive for the coronavirus — and seven of every 10,000 had lost their lives.
There had been 103 deaths for every 100,000 people in the District, 83 deaths per 100,000 residents of Maryland and 51 deaths per 100,000 residents of Virginia, according to a Washington Post database. That compares with a high of 198 deaths per 100,000 people in New York state, and a low of 14 deaths per 100,000 in Vermont.
Those who died in Maryland, Virginia and the District were activists, writers, firefighters and pastors. They worked in our grocery stores, drove our public buses and taught our children. Horace and Violet Saunders, both 96, died days apart after a 75-year love story. Lawrence Nokes, 69, of Carroll County, Md., died a week after finding out that his wife — “his light,” his children said — had also been fatally stricken by the virus that he likely brought home from his job at a nursing home.
The early assumption that the virus would devastate only the elderly and the infirm has unraveled over eight months. Wogene Debele, 43, died before she could see her newborn son; Terrance Burke, a 54-year-old high school basketball coach who worked out regularly, was among the first public school employees to lose his life. One-tenth of the victims in Virginia have been younger than 60. In Maryland, 31 individuals under the age of 30 have lost their lives — including a 1-year-old boy, whose death was announced last week.
Black and Latino communities have been disproportionately hit, though these disparities have narrowed over time as the virus spread to rural, predominantly White areas in Maryland and Virginia. Across all three regions, about 35 percent of fatalities have been African Americans, who account for just a quarter of the population.
Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities also continue to serve as hot spots for covid-19 deaths. The District’s 19 long-term care facilities are linked to 25 percent of the city’s more than 700 fatalities; in Maryland, nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and group homes represent 2,400 deaths — nearly half the state’s total toll.
After thousands of deaths in April and May, the region’s stringent restrictions on social activity allowed the number of monthly covid-19 fatalities to plummet, dipping to 690 in August. The District went from reporting a dozen new fatalities daily to less than three; in October, there was a stretch of eight blissful days in which the city reported no new deaths.
But that period has ended. In just the first week of December, about 500 residents of D.C., Maryland and Virginia lost their lives to covid-19. If these daily numbers persist — and experts say they’re actually likely to increase — December is poised to overtake May as the region’s deadliest month on record.
What follows are profiles of three individuals who died of covid-19 in recent months, along with a link to a full collection of stories about dozens of other victims.
Ronnie Hogue Sr., trailblazing basketball star from Washington, D.C.
One of 14 siblings, Ronnie Hogue Sr. grew up in Georgetown and on Capitol Hill and led the “Magnificent Seven” basketball team at McKinley Technical High School to a city championship in 1969. As the first African American to receive a full athletic scholarship to the University of Georgia, he battled racism in the Deep South and set a path that dozens of young athletes have followed.
“Every step that I took or every decision that I made, I talked to him,” said his son, Ronnie Hogue Jr. of Atlanta. “He was a really humble guy but was known wherever he went.”
Hogue Sr. died Sept. 18 at age 69 after contracting the novel coronavirus and pneumonia.
Read the full story by Amber Ferguson here.
Elsi Campos, cleaning crew supervisor at Pew Charitable Trust
The glass stairwell in the stately Pew Charitable Trusts office building was always spotless. As the project manager in charge of the cleaning crew for the building, Elsi Mabelicia Campos made sure of it, staying in the building until 1 or 2 a.m. to check for the tiniest of smudges with a flashlight.
It was through this dedication and attention to detail that Campos worked her way from cleaning hotel rooms as an immigrant from El Salvador in the 1970s to supervising teams of custodians for one of the largest cleaning companies in the D.C. area. It was what allowed her to help her relatives flee civil war in her home country, to raise two children as a single mother, to care for her elderly parents and to build a life for her six grandchildren.
Read the full story by Samantha Schmidt here.
Jerry Samet, lifelong bachelor, networker, ‘collector of friends’
A former grand master, or president, of all Masonic lodges in the District, a local political activist and owner of a haberdashery, Jerold Samet immersed himself in youth-leadership programs for decades, mentoring thousands of teenagers.
A native Washingtonian, he joined the Masons when he was 21 and, his friends said, devoted himself to the group’s stated mission of promoting “a way of life that binds like-minded men in a worldwide brotherhood that transcends all religious, ethnic, cultural, social and educational differences.”
He never had a biological child, never held a baby of his own in his arms, and this troubled him as he grew older.
Read the full story by Paul Duggan here.