The tragic story of Deborah Gatewood is another reminder of the struggles thousands of Black people have experienced in getting testing or treatment for COVID-19 since the virus emerged more than three months ago.
The 63-year-old spent weeks on the front lines working at Beaumont Hospital, which is in a suburb of Detroit. She fell sick with a cough and fever before going to the ER on March 16. But when Gatewood visited the hospital, she was given cough syrup and told to rest at home.
Kaila Corrothers, her daughter, spoke with Fox2Detroit and said despite her mother's symptoms, the doctors did not test her.
"They sent her home saying you are showing signs of COVID. So they were confirming that she most likely had COVID, but they did not test her. The fact that she got infected by doing the job she did for 31 years and she couldn't get taken care of by her own family, meaning Beaumont, it’s sad. It is disheartening to say the least," Corrothers said.
Gatewood went back to the ER three more times, and each time the hospital told her to rest at home despite her rising fever and worsening condition, Corrothers told Fox2Detroit.
By the end of March, Gatewood developed bi-lateral pneumonia and collapsed before being taken to Sinai-Grace Hospital where she eventually passed away.
"All of this time when you're telling her to go home and rest it off how do you really rest off bi-lateral pneumonia other than cough medicine to cough it out, it's too severe at this point. I just went up to the hospital and sat in the parking lot. If this was as close as I can be to her if this is going to happen, I'm going to sit in my car until I get that phone call," Corrothers said.
Corrothers spoke sorrowfully about how her mother was planning to retire in less than two years so that she could spend more time with her grandchild.
Beaumont Hospital refused to address Gatewood specifically, only telling Fox2Detroit that they "are doing everything (they) can to evaluate, triage and care for patients" and "grieve the loss of any patient to COVID-19 or any other illness."
A CDC report from April 17 said that between February 12 and April 9, at least 9,282 healthcare personnel were officially infected with the coronavirus and 27 have died from it. But in the report, the CDC notes that this "is likely an underestimation" because many states have done a lackluster job of counting and reporting infections.
Nurses around the world have complained about being forced to work even when they have shown signs of illness. A pregnant nurse in England died on April 12 after contracting COVID-19, and another nurse in Detroit passed away due to the virus.