GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - On Monday, the United States passed a grim milestone in the 13-month fight against the COVID-19 pandemic: 500,159 people have died in the U.S. due to the virus. Of those, 27% have died since the start of the new year.
The numbers bring a perspective to the scope of the health crisis, but many families stress that there are faces and names to the rising death toll, especially those in South Mississippi.
“She was a beautiful person inside and out,” Wanda Holmes Smith said when describing her mother, Everta Holmes.
Holmes died last month at 84 years old due to COVID-19.
“It came unexpectedly and it came quick,” her daughter Angela Holmes Walker said.
Family members said the virus worsened Holmes’ pre-existing heart condition, leaving loved ones without their matriarch.
“It has taken a very big toll on our family,” Walker said.
Holmes was one of the more than 500,000 people across the country who lost their lives to COVID-19 so far, and with 6,553 deaths in Mississippi, including 759 in South Mississippi alone, the family warns that the pandemic is far from over.
“After her death and after her passing from it, it’s like, ‘Wake up everybody.’ Because this is real,” Walker said.
While the Holmes family continues to mourn their loss, they honor their loved one by living as she did.
“We would say, ‘What generation of family are you raising now? Are you on your third, fourth, fifth?’” Gulfport Councilwoman Ella Holmes-Hines said. “That’s how the Holmes family is.”
They also look back on memories, such as seeing Sonzie McInnis, her niece, find success with her restaurant, McInnis’s 12 Bone BBQ.
“She was so proud of her and encouraged her with this business,” daughter Rhoda Holmes said.
As COVID-19 deaths decline, the family hopes they won’t experience another tragedy among loved ones and their community.
“You want to do everything in your power to not pass this on to anyone else,” Walker said.
Worldwide, the COVID-19 death toll stands at over 2.4 million.