A Prince George's County council member in Maryland is grappling with loss and grief after Covid-19 killed six members of her extended family and infected 16 others.
Council member Deni Taveras, who grew up in Harlem in New York City after her large, tight-knit family immigrated from the Dominican Republic, said that despite the deaths, her family is strong.
“We are a humble, immigrant family that came here to work hard and do better for ourselves,” she said. “We’ve been in this country for a long time, and we are blessed for that, but at the same time it’s sad that we couldn’t have had some of our family members even longer.”
Her half-brother,Jaimito de la Hoz, 58, and his mother, Ramona de la Hoz, 81, who lived in New York City, contracted the virus and died in March. De la Hoz likely got the virus at a hospital, where he was seeking treatment for another medical issue, and later infected his mother, who was caring for him, Taveras said.
Soon after, four of her uncles, Marcial Garcia, 83, Dario Jerez, 81, Alberto Toledo, 65, and Miguel Suazo, 65, died from Covid-19. The deceased family members lived in New York, Florida and Ecuador, and 16 others became infected but survived, she said.
Her family is supportive, especially Garcia, who encouraged her to pursue her dreams and an education, said Taveras, who attended Barnard College in New York City.
“My fondest memory of Marcial is having conversations with him about the fact that I wanted a better future for myself,” Taveras said. “I invited him to my college graduation, and I remember the pride in his face. He was the only family member, outside of my aunt, that had ever come to visit me at the university.”
Taveras said she wished the U.S. had a universal mask mandate to protect against the coronavirus.
“The politicization of how we have responded to the virus, even the distribution of Covid-19 materials, is disturbing and concerning,” Taveras said Thursday. “I have never seen such a poor response to a national crisis.”
She said she's concerned about her constituents in Prince George’s County, where she is working to help them get better access to coronavirus testing and food, as well as more money for housing and utility assistance.
As of Friday, the county had over 30,000 cases, the highest number in Maryland.
“This is our new normal. If it can hit the White House, it can reach anyone,” she said, referring to the recent coronavirus outbreak that has infected some of the nation's top leaders, including President Donald Trump.