Family who lost loved one, health officials encourage others to get vaccinated against COVID-19

ATLANTA — As of Tuesday, 600,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. 18,000 of those have been Georgians. A Troup County family whose loved one is just one of those deaths are now encouraging others to get vaccinated.

“With him being gone how can I, you know, how can I move forward?,” said Virginia Waites whose husband Bruce died from the virus.

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There is no back to normal for Waites anytime soon. She lost her husband in December and says it is still tough on her and her daughter.

“He always had this way of just making you feel safe and secure. And like, you know, even if you’re having like the worst day he could just make everything go away,” said Gabriella Waites, Virginia and Bruce’s daughter.

Most of the deaths happened throughout the year and during the most recent surge in cases during the winter.

“It’s just heart wrenching, because, you know, we all feel the same void,” said Virginia Waites.

Over the past two days, the Georgia Department of Public Health has reported nine deaths. In mid-February, more than 100 people were dying from COVID-19 each day.

“There’s an awful lot of death and suffering that’s gone on; it was not necessary. And that that’s really what that number signifies to me,” said Dr. Richard Rothenburg, a professor at Georgia State University.

Dr. Rothenberg told Channel 2′s Matt Johnson that he is worried about the emergence of a new, more transmissible “Delta variant” unless more people get vaccinated.

There are at least 20 known cases of the Delta variant in the state of Georgia.

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Just 36% of Georgians are fully vaccinated, and experts are concerned that a low vaccination rate will lead to even more dangerous mutations.

“You don’t want this to transfer into something or transmitted to, you know, change into something more deadly. And that’s why the vaccines are so important,” said Georgia DPH Northwest Health District Director Dr. Gary Voccio.

Georgia DPH has taken the focus off of large vaccination sites as demand for them has dropped. Instead, they are directing energy toward getting the vaccine to the communities.

“We’re either going to churches, going to like housing authorities, going to some locations, or changing the hours to make it where it’s more convenient for people,” said Hayla Folden with the Georgia DPH.

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Both Virginia and Gabriella Waites are fully vaccinated, but that luxury did not arrive in time for Bruce.

Virginia Waites wants to start a foundation in her honor of husband to help others who are struggling with moving on after losing a loved one.

“We all have problems that stem from this. So it’s important to me to, to be able to help people like me,” said Gabriella Waites.