The family of Etelvina Dominguez, 78, and a mother of eight, visit her the day before her death from COVID-19. Only her husband and eldest son could attend in person, the others joining on an iPad.
Sandy Hooper and Jasper Colt, USA TODAY
Each American who dies of COVID-19 leaves an average of nine close family members mourning. With the nation close to 500,000 dead, that puts 4.5 million spouses, children, parents, siblings and grandparents in anguish, confusion, loss.
Some of them mourn Etelvina Dominguez, 78, who died on February 13 in a hospital in Los Angeles.
Hours before her death, her son Lorenzo Jr. cried at her bedside, trying to figure out that she would soon be taken by the coronavirus. “It hit, like, the core of our family because it’s the rock,” he said.
The patient, a housewife, immigrated from Mexico, became a U.S. citizen, and raised eight children – five daughters and three sons, who had more than a dozen children of their own.
Known to her family as “Vina”, she loved professional wrestling and tending to the family garden. A diehard Dodgers fan, Etelvina traded blows with her Yankee-supporting husband.
On February 12, she remained sedated in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center. She had been there for a month, alone.
At the end of life, some family members are entitled to a farewell visit to the bedside while others watch on video. Dominguez her husband, Lorenzo Sr., and eldest son, Lorenzo Jr., 54, were dressed in full PPE.
“I love you mom,” the son said crying. “We will miss you. … I love you. I love you. I love you.”
The virus can ravage and distort patients. Lorenzo Sr. did not recognize his 55-year-old wife even as he held her hand. “Is that Vina?” he asked in Spanish. Unable to bear it, he soon left the room.
The pandemic has hit racial minorities particularly hard. Latinos die from coronavirus 2.3 times more frequently than non-Hispanic whites, federal data shows; Blacks die 1.9 times more often.
Los Angeles County, where about a quarter of the population is non-Hispanic Caucasian, has been overwhelmed with more than 19,800 deaths out of nearly 1.2 million infections. At the height of the pandemic in January, one person in the county died every 15 minutes from the virus.
“Por favor, mom, no te vayas, “Lorena, one of Etelvina’s daughters, cried via a video call.” Please, mom, don’t go. What am I going to do without you? “
Etelvina died the next day.