Michigan man skeptical of COVID-19 loses brother, aunt to virus

Both family members died within 10 days of each other

DETROIT – It’s been nothing but a world of grief lately for Gary Whitfield.

“Every day is a different day for me. I don’t know whether I’m going to be emotionally drained and stressed out and crying and mourning,” Whitfield said.

April 29, 2020 -- Michigan coronavirus (COVID-19) cases up to 40,399; Death toll now at 3,670

Just weeks ago he lost his brother, Zellars, to coronavirus (COVID-19). Not even 10 days later, his aunt Brenda became a victim of the virus.

“It hurt because of the separation and the way that they passed away. Well, I couldn’t be there. So it’s like they died alone,” Whitfield said.

READ: Michigan Gov. Whitmer on requesting emergency powers: ‘I have to do this to save lives’

Since losing his family members he has been working to tell everyone about the severity of the coronavirus, especially because at one point he felt otherwise.

“You know, you still got people who think it’s a hoax and things of that nature. They’re not taking it as serious as they should. Especially the African American community,” Whitfield said.

The message is simple -- follow the guidelines to not only protect yourself, but your loved ones as well.

“I’d rather be 6 feet above ground, and 6 feet on the ground, and 6 feet away from somebody than being 6 feet under the ground,” Whitfield said.

There will be a memorial service this Saturday for Whitfield’s aunt Brenda. Unfortunately his brother couldn’t have the same type of service because of coronavirus.

Whitfield’s employer, 411 Therapy, has donated hundreds of masks, gloves and hand sanitizer to the community in hopes of raising awareness.

MORE: What the CDC says you should do if you believe you have coronavirus (COVID-19)

How COVID-19 Spreads

Person-to-person spread

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

Can someone spread the virus without being sick?

  • Spread is possible before people show symptoms. People who are not showing symptoms can still be carrying the virus and can still pass it on to other people.

Spread from contact with contaminated surfaces or objects

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

How easily the virus spreads

How easily a virus spreads from person-to-person can vary. Some viruses are highly contagious (spread easily), like measles, while other viruses do not spread as easily. Another factor is whether the spread is sustained, spreading continually without stopping.

Prevention & Treatment

There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

Click here for more guidelines from the CDC.

People who think they may have been exposed to COVID-19 should contact their healthcare provider immediately.

Question about coronavirus? Ask Dr. McGeorge here.

Read more about coronavirus here.

About the Authors: