The family of a Vermont woman who recently died from COVID-19 is issuing a last-minute plea, urging people to alter their Thanksgiving plans to avoid social gatherings on the holiday and for a while after.
"I just don't want anyone else to have to go through that," Denise Cousino said of the loss of her mother, Mary "Pat" Brown, to COVID-19.
Brown was a longtime nurse, a devoted churchgoer who loved crafts and music, and was the mother of six kids—whom she raised with her late husband in Bristol, Vermont.
Brown, a few months shy of 80, had been living at a nursing home in Rutland, where the coronavirus infected several dozen residents and staffers.
"I said, 'I love you mom,' and she said, 'I love you back,'" Cousino remembered of her last conversation with her mother, before Brown died last Friday.
Because she and her siblings couldn't see their mom in person at the hospital, where she was taken from the nursing, Cousino said calls were facilitated by a palliative care nurse.
"Her and I were both crying by the end of the call because she's like, 'I wish I could do more,'" Cousino said of her interactions with the palliative care nurse. "And I said, 'You are my mom's lifeline to all six of us.' My mom saying 'I love you' for the last time was just—I'm so grateful that I had that. That was such a little bit but I'm so grateful."
Cousino is now pleading with Vermonters and people everywhere to listen to the public health experts who say to press pause on social gatherings for a while, including Thanksgiving get-togethers.
According to Dr. Mark Levine, the commissioner of the Vermont Department of Health, contact tracers find the virus often spreads when we socialize—when masks are off while we're eating, drinking, and laughing.
"Throw your stuff in the freezer," Cousino advised anyone to do if they were planning a holiday gathering with multiple households. "You can do it another time, you know? They say 'Christmas in July'—can't you do 'Thanksgiving in June?' I don't know."
More on the Coronavirus in Vermont
Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont, read from a letter Tuesday that Pat Brown's kids sent him.
"Our family feels that these deaths need to have names attached to them," the governor read. "Maybe, just maybe, it will spark even one person to do better and try harder to follow guidelines for their loved ones and community. This is what would give our family comfort."
As of Wednesday, the Vermont Department of Health had linked 64 deaths in the state to COVID-19.
The family of Pat Brown is now urging everyone to remember that an individual's own actions to slow the spread of disease may well help everyone.
"If we take this time, maybe Christmas we can be together," Cousino said.
More information on COVID-19 prevention efforts in Vermont, including quarantine expectations on travelers, can be found here.