CHICAGO (WLS) -- For the first time in Chicago, a U.S. Postal Service letter carrier has died of COVID-19.
Family and friends gathered Saturday to honor 31-year-old Unique Clay, who died May 5 after giving birth a week earlier.
"I'm devastated. I'm hurt," said Alan Brown, Clay's father. "She impacted a lot of people's lives with her personality,"
Wearing masks and practicing social distancing, Clay's coworkers met on their break for a morning balloon release Saturday.
According to the National Association of Letter Carriers, Clay worked for the U.S. Postal Service for two years and is the first active letter carrier in the city to die of COVID-19. The union said more than 30 letter carriers in Chicago have tested positive for coronavirus.
"We are essential. We're not your first response, but we are those the American people are counting on us to deliver," said union leader Mack Julion.
Relatives said they don't know how the mother of three contracted the virus, but they said she fell ill and died at her Englewood home on the city's South Side. She had recently given birth to her baby daughter.
Devastated relatives now question why Clay, who had asthma, was discharged from the hospital on May 3 with her newborn. At the time, she supposedly wasn't feeling well after she tested positive at the hospital for COVID-19 when she went into labor.
"They sent my baby home with a lukewarm baby, with two other kids at home to take care of, with COVID," said Clay's mother Annette.
In an email, a spokesperson for the University of Chicago Hospital wrote, "The University of Chicago Medicine community extends the deepest sympathy to the family. We cannot comment on individual cases due to patient privacy laws."
Coworkers and friends are now taking up a collection for Clay's children, as they remind the public that the dangers of COVID-19 are all too real.
Coronavirus: Chicago postal worker dies of COVID-19 a week after giving birth