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COVID-19 death toll more than just numbers on a spreadsheet: ‘They’re your friends, your family’

Click to play video: 'COVID-19 death toll more than just numbers on a spreadsheet: ‘They’re your friends, your family’' COVID-19 death toll more than just numbers on a spreadsheet: ‘They’re your friends, your family’
Nate McLeod is one Winnipegger who’s been faced with the unthinkable reality of COVID-19, losing two loved ones to the virus. Abigail Turner reports – Jan 12, 2022

Recorded numbers are announced each week showing the total death counts in Manitoba related to COVID-19.

A lone age and health region are listed at the top of a provincial document indicating those who do not make it home from the hospital.

But the numbers don’t show the lives lived beyond being represented on a daily COVID-19 data sheet.

They don’t show the faces behind the numbers — the friends, jobs, homes, memories and grieving families that are left behind.

Nate McLeod is one Winnipegger who’s been faced with the unthinkable reality of COVID-19, losing two loved ones to the virus.

“It was just really shocking.”

Read more: COVID-19 has killed as many Americans as the Spanish flu

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McLeod’s family is from Jamaica. His cousin David worked there as a manager of the airport, and also as a pilot flying planes. Last year he says he was told his cousin who had not been vaccinated had been diagnosed with COVID-19, but Mcleod says your mind never expects the worst.

“We were pretty close.”

David died from COVID in 2021, leaving behind his girlfriend who was pregnant with their first child.

“He had a lot going for him and it was so unfortunate. He was such a loveable guy, especially with all the family and cousins. It was heartbreaking.”

The next barrier the family was faced with, he says, was deciding they wouldn’t fly to Jamaica for the funeral.

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“COVID was going pretty wild in Jamaica, so it wasn’t the best time to travel.”

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Instead they watched the funeral over YouTube, something he says was not the same as grieving in person together with family and friends.

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A year later, Mcleod says it doesn’t get any easier. “You don’t want this to happen to anyone, but when it happens to you, it makes it harder.”

With the grief of his cousin’s death still fresh, the unimaginable happened. McLeod’s close friend Christopher who was also not vaccinated was diagnosed with COVID-19 and was admitted to hospital. He did not return home.

“It did seem like he was going to pull through, but then things just quickly turned for the worst and then he was gone.”

The pair met at church years ago before becoming good friends. Mcleod says his friend loved to laugh and joke around.

“He was a really loving guy and everyone around him loved him a lot. He was just very friendly and very kind.”

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Losing two close people in his life he says was devastating, but watching COVID continue to spiral out of control has been difficult, Mcleod says.

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“When someone close to you passes because of these things, it makes it tougher, it makes it a lot tougher.”

“It frustrates me a little bit because some people still take it for granted or don’t take it seriously at all.”

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He says he wants people to realize the gravity COVID-19 can have. “It’s not just a cold,” he says. “It’s not saying that it can’t be, but you have to realize how severe this can be.”

“You still see people today going places where they shouldn’t be going or not following the proper protocols to prevent this. It’s like they don’t care.”

Read more: ‘Heart-wrenching’: Daily COVID-19 deaths in U.S. soar above 1,900

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To date, 1,429 Manitobans with COVID-19 have died. In Jamaica, 2,502 lives have been lost.

Mcleod says the people who have died will not be remembered as data on a spreadsheet.

“They’re not just a number. They’re your friends, they’re your family. They’re not just, ‘this is number 20 and this is number 21’, these are people that should still be around,” he says.

“I just hope and pray that we can get past this.”

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