‘It’s Unlike Anything I Have Ever Seen’: A Deadly Week Across America

Managers had already acted swiftly, ending group meals, isolating residents in their rooms, disinfecting common areas and banning visitors. A week later, the team returned and again tested all residents, obtaining one positive result for a person without symptoms.

The tests enabled managers to separate infected and healthy residents, both to prevent further spread and to conserve limited supplies of masks and gowns for use when tending to people with the virus. Since then, in a rare success documented in a CDC-published study, no more residents have tested positive.

"The elders among us deserve everything we have to give them," Munanga said. "We should be diligently and passionately supporting them _ until the very end, if we must." ___ 'I'M TIRED. BUT THIS IS NOT A SPRINT' The Rev. Dr. Rachelle Zazzu put it plainly: She is in "the epicenter of the epicenter."

She works as the only chaplain at Mount Sinai Hospital in Queens, N.Y. A triage tent is erected outside.

Her job is to comfort the sick, the dying and the grieving, whether they're religious or not.

That used to mean ministering bedside to patients or in waiting rooms to families.

Today, it means praying in hallways with doctors who are near tears.

"I can't be there in person for the wife of a man who has been married for 60 years and is dying," Zazzu said.

"But there are staff members with death on their sites every day."

Zazzu arrives at the hospital every day at 5:45 a.m. to scan the logbook of who has been admitted to the 140 beds overnight. She huddles with staff as they go over the hours they face ahead.

Zazzu takes a few moments to offer spiritual support to the workers who will inevitably see death many times over.

"I remind them they are seen and known by God," said Zazzu, 60, who was ordained in Los Angeles by the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness. "I remind them nobody is forsaken by God."

"God was letting people die 10 years ago and a month ago, and he'll let people die tomorrow."

She spends most days walking through the corridors slowly, waiting for staff to approach her.

"They have concerns. They have fears. They have gratitude. They have blessings."

For those dying of COVID-19, she can't enter the room. So Zazzu has a new kind of memorial.

She'll stand outside and place her hands on the door. "I'll pray out loud for God to receive this person with mercy and grace."

"I'm tired," she said during a recent shift. "But this is not a sprint." ___ 'WHY SHOULD I BE ALLOWED TO LIVE AND SHE HAS TO DIE?' It did not hit Melita Nichols until she stepped into her daughter's small duplex apartment and saw her pajamas on her unmade bed and packs of Theraflu and Benadryl scattered on her headboard.

Like with so many families, closure escaped Nichols. Both she and her daughter, Qunia Roberts, were hospitalized in Albany, Ga., three weeks ago after being infected with COVID-19. But while Nichols, 48, recovered and left the hospital with an oxygen tank, Roberts, 27, died Monday.

Brand-new summer sandals, in shades of orange, yellow and gold, were stacked inside her daughter's closet. Roberts had been excited just a few weeks ago to usher in spring with a pedicure.

"You don't expect a young person to die," she said as she slipped Roberts' glossy wigs and long eyelashes into a trash bag and packed up her work laptop, crocodile and snakeskin purses and floral 2020 planner.

Nichols said her first-born had no medical conditions.

The young software implementation specialist for a health care IT consulting company was lighthearted, a free spirit who loved watching "The Golden Girls" and Maury Povich's show.

Just a few days before she got sick, Roberts changed her Facebook profile to a shot of her spraying a can of Lysol.

The last thing Roberts said to her mother, over the phone when she arrived at the ER, was "Mama, I love you. We ain't gonna let this corona kills us." She died in the evening.

In the last week, the death total jumped from 38 to 67 in Dougherty County, a predominantly black region in southwest Georgia that has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic. About one in 82 people in the county have tested positive for COVID-19.

After piling Roberts' possessions into her daughter's gray Honda Elantra _ her lint roll and hoop earrings still in the driver door, her frosty pink lip gloss and Wet Wipes in the console, Nichols spent Thursday afternoon trying to arrange a funeral.

"I question God," she said through sobs. "I'm close to 50. Why should I be allowed to live and she has to die?" ___ (Kaleem and Lee reported from Los Angeles, Hennessy-Fiske from New Orleans, Read from Seattle and Jarvie from Leesburg, Ga.) ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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