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US passes grim marker in fight against COVID-19

TAMPA, Fla. — The United States passed a grim marker in the fight against COVID-19 on Monday. There have now been more than 500,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins.

In Florida, the state has surpassed 30,000 resident deaths.

Ashley Pelose’s father is among them.

“I never thought I’d have to be doing, talking about the death of my father from a virus that came out of nowhere and is still to this day destroying families in a sense,” said Ashley Pelose, 27.

She said her dad, Frank Pelose Jr., died at 55 years old in October.

“My dad was always outgoing. He was a mechanic for 27 years. He was always super family-oriented. Always was there for his kids. Dropped anything on the dime to help us out,” she said.

She said he had no pre-existing conditions and took precautions.

“He was healthy, and it took his life in a month. That’s all it took to destroy our family and now we’re here without my dad and we had to do all the funerals and everything,” she said. “Never thought I’d have to plan my own father’s funeral for a virus that people still continuously make fun of, undermine just think it’s okay it’s just a virus, it’s the flu. But it’s not.”

Across the state, Florida Department of Health data shows more than 1.8 million total cases since last March.

Daily cases and hospitalizations are trending down right now, with deaths reflecting case numbers seen right after the holidays, explained Thomas Unnasch, Ph.D., the co-director for the Center for Global Health Infectious Diseases Research at USF.

“The daily case numbers still are declining at a slower rate but they’re still declining. I’m looking for the hospitalization numbers and especially the death numbers to start really declining over the next 2 or 3 weeks or so,” he said.

Though Unnasch said he’s encouraged, it’s still not a time to let up on public safety measures like mask-wearing, social distancing and hand hygiene.

“We have this thing kind of on a retreat but we’ve seen before if we loosen up our guard and let this thing have a chance it’s an implacable foe,” he said.

While a year ago few Floridians knew what COVID-19 would come to mean, now far too many families know the tragic reality. Behind each death reported since the pandemic started, is the heartbreaking loss of someone’s loved one.

“Take your precaution to protect somebody else that might not be able to fight off this virus,” said Pelose.

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