‘We want our loved ones to be remembered’: Latinas urge lawmakers to enact COVID-19 memorial day

‘We want our loved ones to be remembered’: Latinas urge lawmakers to enact COVID-19 memorial day

Among the advocates who have been urging federal lawmakers to designate a national COVID-19 Victims and Survivors Memorial Day are three Latinas who lost parents to the virus. Fiana Paulette Garza tells NBC News that her mom, respiratory therapist Isabelle Papadimitriou, declined retirement to help victims. She died from COVID-19 on July 4, 2020.  

Janeth Nuñez del Prado’s dad was unable to access a vaccine where he lives in Bolivia, and had a ticket to travel to the U.S. to get dosed, but he died just days before that flight. “’It’s just that failure of vaccine equity,’ decried Nuñez del Prado, who lives in New Mexico,” the report said. “That makes me very angry. It haunts me, he almost made it.”

While congressional lawmakers have introduced proposals to designate the first Monday of every March “COVID-19 Victims and Survivors Memorial Day,” they have not received enough support to go forward. In the House, Arizona’s Greg Stanton introduced a resolution to designate a memorial day more than a year ago, while Elizabeth Warren, Ed Markey, and Martin Heinrich introduced their resolution in the Senate last August. So far, only Democratic members have supported the proposals.

Both resolutions are supported by Marked By COVID Co-founder and Co-executive Director Kristin Urquiza, one of the three Latinas who spoke to NBC News. She lost her dad in June 2020. At the time that senators introduced their resolution, the U.S. had seen more than 600,000 coronavirus-related deaths. But despite the president urging workers to get back to the office, this pandemic is also not at all over, with the nation nearing 1 million deaths.

”Around 63,000 Americans died of COVID last month,” tweeted The Atlantic science writer Ed Yong. He penned a “How did this many deaths become normal?” piece earlier this month. “On average, each death leaves 9 close relatives bereaved. That’s at least half a million people whose extremely recent grief is being trampled under the stampede of back-to-normal policies & punditry.”

Not to mention the health effects of those suffering with long COVID, which a national memorial day also seeks to acknowledge.

NBC News reported earlier this month that many continue to struggle with effects like brain fog and exhaustion, and have encountered difficulty in seeking assistance as they remain too ill to work. “Studies have already indicated that 43% of those who have had at least one symptomatic COVID-19 infection tend to have issues that persist over an extended period,” Daily Kos’ Mark Sumner wrote in January. Perhaps you, or someone you know, is struggling with this.

“The system is gearing itself against individuals with long Covid,” Dr. David Putrino, Mount Sinai Health System director of rehabilitation innovation, told NBC News. “And that makes them sicker and sicker over time … causing them so much stress and exertion as they’re trying to get care that it actually makes the condition worse.” 

There have been more local efforts to create a COVID-19 memorial day, such as California’s Monterey County, where officials passed a resolution earlier this year. Los Angeles held a multiday memorial last November. In Arizona, Marked By COVID and the Arizona Historical Society joined forces to coordinate a memorial day at the Arizona Heritage Center in Tempe, the Associated Press reported. “We’re fighting a virus that is unseen and it is absolutely the wrong time to announce this mission accomplished,” Embry Health CEO Raymond Embry told Arizona Republic.

“As President Biden said, ‘To heal, we must remember,’” Urquiza said last August. “At our core, those most harmed by COVID want two simple things: we want our loved ones to be remembered, and we want to spare others from this pain.” Heinrich also said in August that “we need this official memorial day to honor the memory of those we’ve lost, acknowledge the continuing grief felt by their loved ones, and recognize those still coping with the long-term effects of the virus. I’m proud to be a part of the effort to make this happen.”

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