The two likely both became sick when Wayne, a corrections officer at Graceville Work Camp in Florida, brought the infection home from work to Lauri, 61, Davis told The Washington Post.
As prisons across the country have become incubators for the virus, Rogers, 65, is the first state prison staff member to die of covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, according to the Florida Department of Corrections. More than 1,800 prison staffers and 9,000 inmates were confirmed to be infected, according to state data. The department’s leadership, Secretary Mark Inch and Deputy Secretary Ricky Dixon, tested positive Thursday.
“No amount of preparedness can alleviate the feelings that come with the news of losing a colleague,” Inch said in a statement. “Sergeant Rogers committed his life to selfless service to the state of Florida as a corrections professional and we are deeply saddened by his passing.”
Florida corrections officer Joseph “Joe” Foster, 40, of Gainesville, Fla., also died Monday, the Miami Herald reported. He worked at Florida Women’s Reception Center in Ocala, which has reported 472 cases and one coronavirus-related death. The corrections department didn’t immediately confirm Foster’s death.
More than 40 inmates have died of covid-19, according to the state’s health department, but the publicly available toll does not yet count Rogers or Foster. The data is updated weekly and a new report will be released Wednesday, corrections department spokesperson Rob Klepper told The Post.
At least 48,000 people have become infected by the coronavirus within prisons, according to a data analysis by the Marshall Project. Florida ranks among the top three states for cases in prisons, behind only Texas and California.
James Baiardi, the president of the Florida Police Benevolent Association, told the Herald that corrections officers don’t receive proper personal protective equipment or testing, leaving some with no choice but to sleep in their cars or in garages to avoid passing on the virus to family members.
As infection has spread within homes, Wayne and Lauri Rogers are not the first couple to die of the virus within a short time.
Davis, who is a nurse, said her parents initially went to the hospital, and were told they had the flu and sent home with cough syrup. Days later, they were hospitalized at Southeast Health in Dothan, Ala., near where the family lives near the border with Florida. Davis was not able to visit out of concern about infecting her three children.
“It was hard, especially as a nurse, it was hard to watch this all unfold over phone calls,” she said.
Even Wayne and Lauri couldn’t see each other, but they knew they were together. Before Wayne was intubated, Lauri passed him a message through a nurse, Davis said.
“My mom told the nurse, ‘Tell him I love him very much,’ ” Davis said. “So [the nurse] went into the next room and told my dad what my mom had said. And he just smiled so big.”
Davis said her parents, who belonged to Bethlehem Baptist Church, cared deeply for others. In February, when Davis and her children had the flu, she told her parents not to come out of concern she would pass it on.
But an hour after she hung up with her parents, Wayne was at her door, holding a pot of chicken noodle soup.
“He was just a real giving person and would just do about anything for anybody,” Davis said of her father.
“My mom, she has just a heart of gold,” she continued. “She never met a stranger. She could carry a conversation with anyone.”
Davis said her parents were healthy overall, and her father had a landscaping business as a second job.
“He worked hard but never got to enjoy retirement,” Davis told WTVY.
While Davis said she isn’t sure if her parents’ deaths could have been prevented by earlier treatment, she hopes others take the pandemic more seriously, especially as she continues to care for coronavirus patients herself.
“I just wish people would understand this virus is real and it affects real people,” she said.
The couple, according to their shared obituary, are survived by their children, Davis, Robert Rogers II and Lezlie (Brandon) Burch; and their grandchildren, Emma Grace Davis, Noah Davis, Olivia Kate Richards, Brody Burch and Drake Burch.