Another COVID Orphan, Another Dead ‘Hero,’ and Now More States Forced to Ration Care

·4 min read
Go Nakamura/Getty
Go Nakamura/Getty

The parents of an 8-year-old girl now left orphaned. A Kentucky woman recently crowned “Teacher of the Year.” A beloved Idaho fire chief. These are among the latest COVID-19 deaths reported this week, as hospitals across the nation warn the Delta-fueled wave is so bad they are already rationing care.

Eight-year-old Lillie Burko has witnessed the devastation firsthand and is now left to deal with its brutal aftermath: After losing both her parents to COVID within two weeks, she is now leaving her home in Oregon and starting over with an aunt in California.

“As adults, we can kind of push through, but it’s these kids, they’re the ones losing their parents, they’re the ones losing, they’re the ones getting the raw end. It’s heartbreaking. Heartbreaking,” said Jennifer DeSantis, a close friend of Lillie’s mother, in comments to local news outlet KATU 2.

Lillie’s parents, Josie and Tom, were both unvaccinated, as they had concerns about pre-existing conditions, said DeSantis. They died 12 days apart.

“It’s just too much. She was 38; he was 39. Too young,” said DeSantis, who set up a GoFundMe campaign to support Lillie.

In Louisiana, another child was left to deal with the devastation wrought by the virus. The newborn son of 24-year-old Keighlie Renee Reaux never even got to be held by his mother. After being diagnosed with COVID-19 prior to giving birth, Reaux, who was not vaccinated, was placed on a mechanical ventilator shortly after her son was born by emergency Caesarean section.

As Keighlie fought for her life, her mother, Amie Reaux, told CBS This Morning the family had “let their guard down” because they “thought, like the rest of the world, this isn’t that real of a virus.”

Reaux lost her fight against the virus earlier this week, according to The Advocate.

So did Amanda Nutt, a teacher at Caverna Independent High School in Horse Cave, Kentucky, who won her county’s Teacher of the Year award just over a year before she was struck down by the virus. It was not immediately clear if she was vaccinated or not, but her family has asked that “masks be worn at all times” at a funeral service scheduled for Sunday.

A beloved Idaho fire chief also succumbed to the virus this week, leaving one community to mourn the loss of its “hero.” Garden Valley Fire Chief Jon Delvalle died Tuesday, according to his fire department. Delvalle contracted the virus by coming into contact with an “extremely sick” patient on the job, meaning his death is considered one that occurred in the line of duty.

The neverending stories of grief come as the Delta variant-fueled wave of the COVID pandemic keeps a stranglehold on huge swaths of the United States, ensuring that the victims of the virus aren’t limited to those who experience it directly.

In Oregon, where hospitals are breaking under the weight of new COVID-19 cases, some cancer patients have seen their treatment postponed indefinitely, NPR reports.

She Endured Unspeakable Tragedy. Then Her Grandson Got COVID.

Charlie Callagan, a Vietnam vet whose blood cancer of the bone marrow has been linked to the use of Agent Orange during the war, is one of them. Callagan told NPR he was already on his way to Oregon Health and Science University when he got a call notifying him the procedure was called off because the hospital was full of COVID patients.

A spokesperson for the hospital later confirmed that a coronavirus surge had caused “all outpatient surgeries and procedures” to be postponed.

The situation is equally alarming in Alaska, Montana, Idaho, and Washington state, where hospitals have warned that resources are depleted due to COVID-19 surges.

The Billings-Gazette reported Wednesday that Montana’s largest hospital is on the brink of rationing care. Idaho, where public-health officials said last week that hospitals would be allowed to ration care, expanded the practice statewide Thursday, with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare announcing that the state’s largest hospital network would switch to “crisis standards of care.”

In Alaska, health officials said this week they are forced to choose between patients to determine who is more likely to benefit from life-saving care.

“We’re out of beds. Life-saving measures are not going to be possible in every case,” Leslie Gonsette, an internal-medicine hospitalist at Providence Alaska Medical Center, the state’s largest hospital, said in a letter sent out Tuesday.

Providence was forced to begin implementing crisis standards of care this week, as more than 30 percent of the hospital’s patients were infected with COVID as of Tuesday.

Even in the face of such grim news, some residents attended an Anchorage Assembly meeting Tuesday night and spoke out against pandemic-related restrictions, claiming the virus was not really as serious as it seemed, the Anchorage Daily News reports.

Solana Walkinshaw, the chief of staff of Providence, offered a sobering response: “We are in crisis at the hospital. That means when we have four patients and two machines, two people are not getting that care. It’s happening now.”

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