LUCY: You’re listening to a special edition of The Daily Sun-Up, a podcast from The Colorado Sun. This week we’re featuring special coverage to mark the one-year anniversary of the first known coronavirus case in Colorado. This is Fear, Loss, Change: A Pandemic Year. I’m Lucy Haggard.
JOHN: And I’m John Ingold. Today is Monday, March 1st, 2021.
LUCY: More than four hundred thousand Coloradans have caught COVID-19 in the past year. Almost six thousand Coloradans have died with it. One in every thousand people alive on March 5, 2020 — the day Colorado identified its first case — did not live to see another year due to COVID-19. As of this podcast, more than 1.3 million Coloradans have received at least one vaccine shot, yet the death toll keeps climbing.
JOHN: This has been a year-long mass casualty event. But it is, of course, not Colorado’s first mass tragedy. Look to the Aurora or Columbine shootings; wildfires or floods; the polio epidemic; the 1918 flu. But COVID is unique in that the devastation has largely remained invisible. Hospital wards and long-term care facilities have kept out visitors. Funeral homes are limiting the capacity of their services or holding them virtually. There have been no public vigils or displays of solidarity for those lives lost. It has been a tragedy that is difficult to see.
JOHN: And while the majority of Americans know someone who was hospitalized or killed by the virus, experts say it has remained a divisive experience.
When the pandemic began, experts assumed that people would become more unified against the coronavirus once they had more personal experience with it.
But, by early this year, many had realized that wasn’t the case.
Instead, people’s attitudes depended heavily on whether they identified with those falling ill. In other words, many people view the pandemic as a problem facing individuals, not one facing all of us together.
JOHN: For those who have lost loved ones this past year, they experience more than just grief.
LUCY: Take the family of Anna Trujillo Pacheco. Anna died on November 13, 2020, five days after being rushed to Swedish Hospital due to low oxygen levels. Anna was the first of five generations of firstborn women. Here’s great-granddaughter Desiree Hooston, the fourth in that lineage.
The evening before Anna died, family from around the globe gathered on a video call to say goodbye. Jeanette Esquibel, Anna’s first daughter said by that point, Anna was exhausted. By six a.m., she was gone.
Jeanette says she regrets not calling to check in on her mother.
Anna had survived breast and kidney cancers as well as a debilitating car accident. As the family matriarch, she anchored together a vast network of relatives. If there wasn’t an ongoing public health emergency when she passed away, cousins and siblings would gather at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post off West Colfax Avenue. Granddaughter Ana Evans, who is named after Ana and the third generation of firstborn women, wrote her obituary, but she says it’s not enough.
LUCY: With that pain comes anger at the way the pandemic has played out. Anger at people who refuse to wear masks, at how the virus has become politicized. Desiree, the great-granddaughter, wonders how her oldest daughter Rhaya, the fifth generation of firstborn women, will remember the one who defined her lineage. How will she share that memory with her younger brother and daughter, and with the child on the way, who never got to meet Anna?
Of course, every loss happens differently. When Dominique Stephenson was taken off life support at Penrose Main Hospital on September 17, 2020, his wife Kathy Utley was masked up and right by his side.
Dominique had just arrived from Minneapolis to join Kathy in Colorado Springs, closer to Kathy’s daughter. The two had met in Madison, Wisconsin and ended up living together for six years before finally getting married, just over a year ago. They were excited for the next chapter of their life together.
But he fell ill days before he was slated to drive across the Great Plains, and while the first coronavirus test turned up negative, by the time he arrived in Colorado with the moving truck, he could barely walk.
Even while Dominique was comatose in the hospital, somehow he kept up his endless generosity: Kathy received a pair of binoculars from an order he had placed days earlier.
Since Dominique’s death, Kathy has moved in with her daughter. But moving on from the death of her soulmate is much more difficult. She’s finding that attitudes about the virus are different here than they were in the Midwest. And though she knows she’s not alone in her loss, it feels more lonely than it should.
JOHN: You’ve been listening to Fear, Loss, Change: A Pandemic Year. To read the stories that go with today’s podcast, go to coloradosun.com forward slash coronavirus dash one dash year.
LUCY: This episode of the Daily Sun-Up was made by John Ingold, and me, Lucy Haggard, with help from Pirate Audio. Our editor is Larry Ryckman. Special thanks to Jeanette Esquibel, Ana Evans, Desiree Hooston and Kathy Utley.
JOHN: If you like what we do at The Colorado Sun, consider contributing. Go to coloradosun.com forward slash membership.
LUCY: As always, thank you for listening.
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