Illinois COVID-19: Brother of state's 1st COVID-19 victim reflects on loss as national death toll hits 200K

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Six months after Illinois recorded its first COVID-19-related death, a South Side woman whose sister would also die days later, their brother hopes others can heed the warning his loved ones never got.

The United States officially reached 200,000 COVID-19 deaths Tuesday. In downtown Northbrook, a billboard counts the number of COVID-19 deaths, and now reflects a grim reality.

IL reports 1,531 new coronavirus cases, 30 deaths

"Two hundred thousand Americans can't be with their families and their friends and their communities," said Lee Goodman, who put the billboard up.

Anthony Frieson's family is among them. His older sister Pat died on March 16, Illinois' first COVID-19-related fatality. Her sister Wanda died 10 days later, also from the virus. For the family this day feels like every day since.

"As far as it being a milestone, I guess for those of us losing people, it really isn't. It's just another sad reminder of what's going on," he said.

Frieson said his sisters died before masks and social distancing were on most people's radar, so they did not have the benefit of all that's been learned since. To those who would downplay the need for face coverings and the danger the virus poses, his message comes straight from a broken heart.

"The numbers are real, and so it is real, and if others don't believe that, well," he said. "It's happening. It has happened to my family. It's happened to 200-thousand other families in the U.S."

COVID-19 has disproportionately affected minority communities. At Lawndale Christian Health Center, where they have worked to increase testing and access to care, the pandemic has been revealing.

"Pandemic has brought to light the fractures in our system and inequities, and we need to do much better," said Dr. Bruce Rowell.

Anthony Frieson said while this is a day to look back, it's more important to look forward to prevent the kind of loss this country has seen in just under eight months.
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