Coronavirus deaths: Chicago family mourns in isolation over loss of 911 operator to COVID-19

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The family of a Chicago 911 operator who died from COVID-19 last month is speaking out about the difficulties of mourning while in isolation.

Hannah Modjeski said wearing her father's uniform doesn't compare to his embrace, but it helps her still feel his presence.

"It smells like him. It's him," she said.

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Hannah's father, 60-year-old Russel Modjeski, died on March 29 from COVID-19 after being rushed to a hospital.

"I was only allowed 10 minutes. I had to be completely covered up. I couldn't touch him," Hannah said.

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Modjeski's family said before he passed away, he was concerned about safety at the 911 center, with COVID-19 spreading across the Chicago area.

"All he told me a few weeks ago was they only put hand sanitizer on desks," Hannah said.

Russel Modjeski worked as a 911 operator for more than 20 years.

The family said it's unclear where he contracted the virus.

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OEMC officials said they've had 12 positive cases on the 911 floor, and they've taken steps to increase sanitation and social distancing since March.

Modjeski leaves behind three adult children and a wife of 25 years.

In the midst of their grief, they are all coping with what they believe is COVID-19.

Hannah's 90-year-old grandmother, who lives with them, has tested positive for the virus.

Hannah said her own symptoms are mild.

"It has been extremely difficult grieving," she said. "We are in isolation so we don't get to have the typical grieving experiences."
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