More than 40 members of the same West Virginia-based family have reportedly been infected with the coronavirus after they gathered for a relative’s funeral last month.
Polly Williams, of Kermit, West Virginia, said the virus has spread rapidly through her family because a COVID-19-stricken relative flew from Arizona for the services without disclosing the extent of her illness, the Daily Mail reported.
Williams, who declined to mention her sick relative by name, said her family met together to mourn the passing of her cousin, Keenetha Brige, on July 2 in Wayne County, West Virginia. They assumed the relative was groggy from her flight. No one wore masks while they were together before or during the funeral and wake.
“My relative from out-of-state wasn’t feeling well, but I didn’t think a lot about it,” Williams told the Mountain Citizen. “I figured she was tired from her flight and lack of sleep.
“She never said one word about fearing her illness was something serious,” Williams went on, adding, “Her condition worsened over the next couple of days and she supposedly had to seek medical attention but still never told us anything.”
The family learned only on the morning of Brige’s wake that the relative’s husband and son, who both stayed back in Arizona, had tested positive for the coronavirus several days earlier.
“By the day of the wake, a young child in our family that had been in the home where my relative was staying, was the first among us to be positive. And so it began,” Williams said.
Williams said the virus over the ensuing month has been “spreading like wildfire” through her family and even to friends who didn’t attend the services.
Williams has tested positive for COVID — as have dozens of family members ranging from five months to 77 years old. While she’s recovered, several of her family members have been hospitalized to battle the deadly bug.
“When does it stop?”asked Stella Brewer, Williams’ sister, in an interview with the Mountain Citizen. “When will we reach the point that no one else in our family gets that dreaded call?”
Every family member has had to quarantine for two weeks and the church where services were held is being sterilized.
Illnesses have varied among Williams’ family, with some falling severely ill and others experiencing mild cases. A two-year-old girl in the family had to be rushed to the hospital last week after catching the virus and suffering a high fever.
“She’s just two years old,” Brewer said. “She doesn’t understand why she’s sick. And with so many in our family ill, we don’t even know who will be able to take care of her.”
Williams told the Citizen she’s infuriated that her relative fly into town while sick, risking the lives of fellow travelers and family members.
“I understand that my relative lost a close family member. I get that. My heart breaks for her,” Williams said. “But to get on a plane while you’re ill and travel to another state, knowing full well you could infect everyone you are around is, in my opinion, selfish and unforgivable. The very least she could have done was to wear masks and gloves and warn all of us to stay away, that she was ill.”
“What happened was a total disregard for anyone,” Williams went on. “It didn’t matter if it was strangers on a plane or her own family, she withheld information that has endangered all our lives, and we are paying the price.”
Williams said she was only speaking out to warn of the seriousness of the virus and to serve as a precautionary tale to others to feel sick.
“I’m not trying to degrade anyone or cause any hardship,” Williams said. “I want the public to understand what we are going through and how it could have been prevented. I want others to know how serious COVID-19 is and what a catastrophe it can become if you’re not forthcoming about having it.”