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‘She died alone’: Ga. daughter remembers mom lost to COVID-19

Not allowed in the hospital, no funeral, no closure... two years after the first deaths in Georgia from COVID-19, we reflect back.
Published: Mar. 4, 2022 at 12:25 PM EST
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - The Georgia Department of Public Health has reported that over 29,000 Georgians have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began. Saturday marks two years since the first COVID-19 death was reported in Georgia.

While numbers of cases in the state appear to be trending downward, many are still left mourning the loss of loved ones whose deaths were attributed to the virus.

“My mom was so incredibly beautiful. Like beautiful, out of this world, beautiful,” Jesse Danville explained.

She describes her mother as radiant - inside and out. She says Barbara Land also led by example.

“She used to tell me the most important thing was to be kind to everybody - kind to people who are mean to you, kind to people who are nice to you, kind to the person sitting alone at the lunch table, be kind to every one,” Danville said.

Born on Valentine’s day, Land was 68 years old, and among the first set of deaths early on in the pandemic.

“By the time she got to the hospital, they said there was no point in ventilating her, that her pulse-ox was so low that she needed to just go somewhere to be comfortable and die,” Danville said.

In April of 2020, the virus was so new that essential workers didn’t know how contagious COVID-19 would be. Like many, Danville and her family were not allowed inside the hospital to say goodbye.

“I was asking my dad, can you get one of the nurses to face time her. Even if she’s unconscious, I just want to talk to her. And they wouldn’t do any of that,” Danville said.

Danville still doesn’t know if her mom took her final breaths alone - isolated and in quarantine. “I felt complete helplessness,” Danville explained.

The death count in Georgia rose. The Georgia Department of Public Health says of the deaths in the state, about 21-percent have been people between 60-69 years old, like Danville’s mother; those 80 and above account for about 31-percent of COVID-19 deaths.

“I very quickly was learning that the people around me weren’t taking it seriously,” Danville said.

Because her mother was elderly and living in a nursing home, Danville said she often saw people discount her mother’s death.

“I feel like I had to defend her almost. And to really hit home with people how tragic it was that she died alone -- and that part still makes me angry. I don’t feel like I have to do that. Because she was a human being, and she was loved by so many people,” Danville said.

But she says with the years her mother lived, came the years of the positive influence she left on the world.

“She was a person who -- her impact went so far back beyond before I was born before my dad ever met her,” said Danville. ”When I talk to other people who have lost someone to covid-19, I feel such deep empathy for them, and I almost preface those conversations saying, ‘You don’t have to tell me how old this person was; you don’t have to tell me any of that. I just want to know who they were.’”