WEBMD – Traci Sikes’s older sister Debbie had survived several health setbacks in life — a heart attack, a cancer diagnosis, and a couple of botched surgeries for a bad back.
But by early 2023, the 68-year-old from Brownwood, TX, was in remission from lymphoma, feeling stronger, and celebrating a birthday for one of her 11 beloved grandchildren.
Then Debbie caught COVID-19. Less than 2 months later, in March, she died of severe lung damage caused by the coronavirus.
Traci was able to make the trip from her home in Washington state to Texas to be with Debbie before she died.
She was grateful that she arrived while her sister was still lucid and to hear her sister’s last word — “love” — spoken to one of her grandchildren before she took her final breath.
The abandoning of protective measures also fails to recognize the ongoing and catastrophic risks of long COVID and the experiences of an estimated 26 million people in the U.S. living with long COVID.
“My sister was wonderful,” Sikes said. “And she shouldn’t be gone.”
Just 6 months after President Joe Biden declared last fall that “the pandemic is over,” Debbie’s death was a painful reminder to Traci and her family that COVID hasn’t actually gone anywhere.
Just as both the World Health Organization and U.S. government recently ended the 3-year-old coronavirus public health emergency, COVID is still killing more than 100 people every day in the U.S., according to the CDC, and amid widespread efforts to move on and drop protective measures, the country’s most vulnerable people are still at significant risk.
The prevailing attitude that we need to learn to live with the current level of risk feels like a “slap in the face,” for COVID grievers who have already paid the price,” said Sabila Khan, who co-founded a Facebook group for COVID loss support, which now has more than 14,000 members.
It also minimizes the continuing loss of life and that so many people are still dying traumatic and unnecessary deaths, she said.