The number of Americans diagnosed with the coronavirus has reached more than 80,000 as of Thursday afternoon, with the number of deaths passing 1,000. COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus, has spread to all 50 states, with people of all backgrounds being impacted. The virus has taken the lives of a high school principal, a beloved Broadway playwright, actors, a World War II veteran and a member of a politician's family.
There is still no approved vaccine for COVID-19, but there are ways to prevent getting it in the first place. This is why government officials across the country have imposed "stay-at-home" orders and promoted social distancing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest avoiding close contact with strangers, keeping about 6 feet between you and another person because the virus is spread mainly from person to person. The virus can be carried through respiratory droplets produced from coughing and sneezing.
Aside from avoiding close contact with those who are sick and other people, cleaning your hands often is another way to protect yourself. You should wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after being in a public place, blowing your nose, coughing and sneezing. The CDC also says people should avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
Here is a look at just a small handful of the men and women who have lost their lives due to the coronavirus.
Terrence McNally, Tony-Winning Playwright
Terrence McNally, one of the towering figures of Broadway, died on March 24 at age 81 in Sarasota, Florida of complications from COVID-19. McNally received the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Tony Award and joined the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2018. His most beloved works include Kiss of the Spider Woman, The Full Monty, Ragtime, Love! Valour! Compassion!, Master Class, Mothers and Sons, The Ritz and The Visit.
Retired New York Fire Marshal John Knox
NYC fire marshal John Knox dies from coronavirus - New York Daily News https://t.co/EZvhKLE73o— Claude Taylor (@TrueFactsStated) March 17, 2020
John Knox, 84, lived a lifetime of service in New York City. The Korean War veteran was a member of the New York City Polie Department and served as the fire marshal for the Fire Department of New York. Even though he was retired on 9/11, he rushed to help his community.
"He took his vehicle and all the gear that he still had remaining from his time with the FDNY and drove down to The Battery and made the trek from there all the way to Ground Zero," his son, Zachary Knox, told CNN's Anderson Cooper. "And he was there for several weeks afterward."
Ron Golen, Brother of Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan
View this post on Instagram
Ron Golden, the Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, was battling cancer when he was diagnosed with the disease. He was in a medically induced coma before his death, Flanagan revealed.
"Almost exactly two months after we buried our dad, my brother Ron Golden passed away on Saturday," Goldman wrote on Instagram. "To many, he’ll be a statistic: Tennessee’s second COVID-related death. But to me, I’ll remember a loving, older brother, uncle, father, and husband. Ron was a tough-as-nails Marine who was a big teddy bear on the inside. He never left my dad’s side during his final weeks and took care of everyone else in the way only he could."
"His politics didn't match mine AT ALL (and we joked about it constantly) but Ron was a very good man who had an amazing capacity to love. I miss him dearly," Goldman wrote. "Several weeks ago, Ron was diagnosed with cancer. His immune system was compromised and he contracted COVID-19. He was put in a medically induced coma and placed on a ventilator. He fought it as hard as he could but it was simply too much for his body. THIS is why we must #StayHome. If you feel fine, that’s great. But please consider the possibility that you’re carrying the virus and don’t know it, and then you walk past the next Ron, my big brother, in public. COVID-19 now has a personal connection to me. Please do all you can to prevent one for you."
Mark Blum, Actor
Mark Blum, a beloved stage actor who also appeared in Desperately Seeking Susan, Crocodile Dundee and Netflix's You, died at age 69 after contracting the illness.
"With love and heavy hearts, Playwrights Horizons pays tribute to Mark Blum, a dear longtime friend and a consummate artist who passed this week. Thank you, Mark, for all you brought to our theater, and to theaters and audiences across the world. We will miss you," Playwrights Horizons announced.
George Possas, World War II Veteran
George Possas, who served in World War II, died on March 17 in Long Island, New York at age 93. Heranan electrical contracting business with his son. His family said Possas' health quickly deteriorated after he was diagnosed with the illness and they could not be with him in the hospital at the time of his death.
"So sad to learn that the first victim of this virus that I know was this remarkable man, George Possas, last night. He survived the Great Depression, combat in WWII and 91 years during which his kindness, compassion and leadership made him a beloved member of the national Greek-American community," Washington Oxi Day Foundation Executive Director Mike Manatos wrote on Facebook.
Marlowe Stoudmire, Community Leader
Our condolences go to the family of Bro. Marlowe Stoudemire (‘14 Nu Omega) who entered Omega chapter this morning due to complications from COVID-19. Bruh lived outside of Detroit and left his wife and two kids. Please pray for his family and loved ones during this difficult time pic.twitter.com/FgXddn6hYL— Omega Perp Alert (@omegaperpalert) March 25, 2020
Marlowe Stoudamire, 43, was a respected community leader in Detroit. He died on March 24, his former employer, Henry Ford Health System told CNN. He is survived by his wife and two young children.
"He was tireless in his love and care for others. My wife and I are heartbroken for this devastating loss. We will continue the fight of this terrible pandemic in his honor," his former employer said.
Four Members of One New Jersey Family
Our hearts go out to the Fusco family.
As we mourn with them, I urge all New Jerseyans to take this seriously. Please wash your hands, practice social distancing, and stay home. We will get through this together.— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) March 19, 2020
The coronavirus has left the Fusco family of New Jersey in mourning, as four members of the family died in a week due to the illness. Family patriary Grace Fusco, 93, and her children, Carmine, Vincent Jr. and Rita Fusco-Jackson, all in their 50s, died after contracting the coronavirus. Three other relatives were hospitalized as well.
"It's absolutely surreal," Elizabeth Fusco, another of Grace's children, told CNN last week. "They were the roots of our lives ... It's like the second we start to grieve about one, the phone rings and there's another person gone, taken from us forever."
Sundee Rutter, Single Mother of Six and Cancer Survivor
Sundee Rutter, 42, is one of six people who have now died from COVID-19 in Snohomish County in Washington https://t.co/ubRcTnMZZP— CBS Austin (@cbsaustin) March 19, 2020
Sundee Rutter, 42, of Everett, Washington overcame adversity multiple times in her life. She fought breast cancer and raised her six children after her husband died in 2012. Her breast cancer was in remission when she became sick and was taken to the hospital. Her family set up a GoFundMe fundraiser, which has raised more than $267,000 to help her family.
"She continued to work at her job at Ross Dress for Less throughout her treatment as she was the sole provider for her six beautiful and amazing children. Due to all the cancer treatments, Sundee didn’t have much left in the way of an immune system," the GoFundMe page reads. "Unfortunately and tragically, She contracted the virus that is making the news lately. (I can't say the name of the virus otherwise fb will delete the post). She fought valiantly until she could not fight any more. She lost her battle on March 16, 2020."
Photo credit: Al Pereira/Getty Images