More than 220,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the United States, including over 9,500 here in Massachusetts.
Over the next few shows, we'll be remembering some of those who have passed by speaking with the family members they left behind.
Tonight, we heard from Nicole Harris about her father Fred Harris, who died on March 25 from COVID-19 at age 70.
Nicole says her father was gregarious and friendly and known to stop and talk with strangers. He worked at UMass Amherst for years and was well-known around campus. A talented athlete, Fred was scouted by the Red Sox when he was young, but he was forced to turn down the offer after being drafted to Vietnam. He grew up in Amherst and lived in Northampton at the time of his death.
Fred and his wife Judy were a month away from celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. Judy also contracted the virus but has since recovered.
Nicole says her family is waiting to celebrate her father's life.
"Whenever we even have the celebration of life, I know it will be huge, and a lot of people will be there," said Harris. "But we have not rushed because I know we are still in this pandemic and in no way or form do I want people to be gathering on a mass scale to celebrate anything. So we will wait until it’s safe and if it’s one year, if it's two years, like, so be it. But he needs to be celebrated in the appropriate way. "
Then, we heard from Sharmila Murthy and her husband, Sameer Chopra, about Sharmila's father, N.S. Ramamurthy, who died on April 24.
Dr. Rama, as his students and colleagues called him, was a professor and researcher at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He lived in Smithtown, New York, and his daughter and son-in-law live in Brookline. His family describes him as a beloved father, grandfather, husband and teacher. He was known to tell off-color jokes and if you weren't careful, fill your inbox with them. He and his wife Sharon were married for 49 years — it would have been 50 on Oct. 3.
N.S. and Sharon both began to show symptoms of COVID-19 in March. N.S. went to the ER on March 24 but was initially turned away, Sharmila said, because the hospital lacked resources to test him. His symptoms worsened. He returned to the hospital four days later and spent the next month on a ventilator.
His family says a stronger federal response would have saved his life.
"One of the things that I found very challenging to hear was when our president said, don't let COVID dominate your life. Don't be afraid. Don't let it control you," said Sharmila. "And I thought, my dad was a strong person. He wasn't asking for COVID to control him. And you can't just turn a blind eye to the fact that we need stronger public health measures to protect all of us, that when we protect ourselves, we're protecting our neighbors, our friends, our loved ones. And that's what leadership is about."
Fred Harris - 2:12
N.S. Ramamurthy - 16:50