COVID-19 hits home

Photo courtesy Lindsay Wootton Lindsay Wootton says goodbye to her mother, Tracy Larsen, who died of COVID-19.

Numbers can’t capture the suffering, loss families experience.

COVID-19 has hit Sanpete County hard.

Through Nov. 19, there have been 887 cases since the pandemic began, including 247 in the nine days from Nov. 10-19 and 414 cases in 18 days from Nov. 1-19, according Nathan Selin, director of the Central Utah Public Health Department.

But numbers don’t tell the story of how the virulent virus has affected individual lives. In one Moroni family, a husband and wife were hospitalized. The wife’s father of Mt. Pleasant was also hospitalized. Both the wife and her father died.

In Manti, a husband and wife both got the virus, and the husband was hospitalized. In Gunnison, a teenager who got the virus says she loves food but couldn’t taste it anymore. In Ephraim, a professor, who was considered one of the most cautious people on the Snow College campus, caught the virus.

In Longview, Texas, the owner of a business with operations in Gunnison died.

The final photo of Bert Porter and Tracy Larsen, father and daughter. Porter was about to be transported to the Utah Valley Medical Center. Both died of COVID-19.

Several of the COVID-19 victims or their relatives who were interviewed by the Sanpete Messenger said COVID-19 precautions need to be followed.

Lindsay Wootton of Logan, who lost her mother and grandfather, and whose father was also stricken, has been on the NBC Today Show, NBC Nightly News, CNN, HLN, CBS This Morning and National Public Radio.

Wootton’s mother, Tracy, who lived in Moroni, died on Oct. 29, while her grandfather Bert Porter of Mt. Pleasant died on Oct. 11. Wootton’s father, Chad Larsen of Moroni, was also hospitalized but is out now. But he is still having effects from the disease.

Tracy Larsen spent 46 days in Utah Valley Regional Medical Center (UVRMC). Her husband, Chad, was in for 48 days, and Tracy’s father, Porter, was in two different hospitals for a total of 40 days.

During Tracy’s hospitalization, her daughter says, she yelled out in pain and was gasping for air. Her breathing was so hard, her whole body lifted off her bed.

Wootton talked with her mother for hours every day, sometimes in multiple phone calls. She called her mother every morning after taking her daughter to school. “We could spend hours on the phone, shooting the breeze,” Wootton said.

“Now on the drive home (from school), I just cry,” Wootton said.

Wootton slept at UVRMC 18 nights while her mother was hospitalized. But Tracy only saw her husband four times and her father just twice while she was in the hospital.

On Oct. 29, Tracy’s family was told that she had taken a turn for the worse with the muscles in her abdomen and chest becoming too weak. It was as if Tracy had run a three-week marathon without any breaks. She didn’t make it through the day.

During Porter’s hospitalization, he was transferred to from Utah Valley Medical to the Utah Valley Specialty Hospital, a freestanding hospital specializing in acute care, with the goal of rehabilitating his lungs.

Various types of therapies were administered. What took his life, his granddaughter said, was aspirating into his oxygen mask. When that happened, he got aspiration pneumonia.

Early in the pandemic, Tracy didn’t believe the coronavirus was a serious problem. She believed getting COVID-19 was like getting the flu. She teased her mother about wearing a mask.

“I was proven wrong not just once, but twice,” she said.

Wootton wishes people opposing COVID-19 precautions would listen to health care providers. “The governor and politicians are not asking to take away others’ freedoms,” she said. “When I wear a mask, it is to protect someone else, not just to protect me.”

It’s worth limiting who we see during the holidays, she said, in order to have future holidays with family members.

Claire and Reid Cox of Manti both caught the coronavirus. Two days before Claire’s quarantine ended, Reed was admitted to UVRMC.

“I never dreamed it would hit my husband so hard that he would end up in the hospital,” Claire said. “Because he’s quite a healthy guy, honestly.”

“Everyday, I was bragging that we didn’t have any issues in Sanpete County…. Before long it starts creeping in here… I’d always feel safer here than in Orem, and now you can’t be safe anywhere.” —Claire Cox (right), whose husband, Reid (left), was hospitalized with the coronavirus

Claire’s symptoms began when she had “a little bit of a headache” and sore throat. Things got worse, however. “I was to work (on a) Monday and by Thursday, I could not smell,” she  said.

Reid got a fever that got up to 103.8 degrees one day. “If he stood up, he would cough and cough and cough,” Claire said.

She said that on Monday, Nov. 16, after getting up to go to the bathroom, Reid told her, “I think I’m dying.”

“Are you serious?” Claire replied.

“I need help,” Reid said.

Claire called UVRMC to see if they had room. She was instructed to take Reid to the entrance. She got her husband to the hospital at 6:45 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 17. “He could barely stand up,” she said. “He went in with his pajamas on, a robe and his phone, and that was all.

“They told me that if he had not been low on oxygen and not had the fever … they would not have admitted him. There’s a certain criteria.”

As of last Friday, Nov. 20, the medical staff was trying to get the virus to quit growing in his lungs. Claire asked a nurse how many people they have seen at the stage Reid is at still recover. “They said, ‘Actually, quite a few,’” Claire said.

Before her husband got the virus, he was “quick to say this is this is so blown out of proportion—it’s so political,” Claire said. “I haven’t asked him what he thinks now, but we know firsthand that this is not a hoax, that it is real.”

“Every day, I was bragging that we didn’t have any issues in Sanpete County,” she said. “Before long it starts creeping in here … I’d always feel safer here than in Orem and now you can’t be safe anywhere.”

She added, “I just appreciate everyone in our community…that has shown their love and care.”

She noted when Susan and Mike Barclay heard they were sick, Susan made soup and Mike brought groceries. Michelle Hatch picked up a prescription and paid for it.

Emily Johnson of Gunnison, a senior at Gunnison Valley High School, tested positive for the virus and had to quarantine through last Thursday, Nov. 19.

The worst part, she said, was not being able to taste because she loves food. Not being able to taste meant that she lost motivation to eat, she said.

For Emily, only the first day was “super rough.” She had a high fever and slept all day as well as the next day.

While quarantined, Emily stayed in her room with her cat and video-chatted with four friends who were also in quarantine.

While her quarantine period was officially over, Emily didn’t go to school last Friday, Nov. 20 and considered remaining at home through Thanksgiving break.

Dr. Paul Gardner, a biology professor at Snow College, tested positive for the coronavirus and went into quarantine last week.

Back on Nov. 11, Gardner took a brisk walk in fairly cold weather. He started coughing. He popped a cough drop in his mouth and kept going. But he started to think his condition was more than bronchitis. He was right.

Even though students tell him he is the most cautious person they know on-campus, he said, by Saturday, Nov. 14, he had received the word from his doctor: He was positive.

Gardner said he has been “sleeping like a cat”—as much as 20 hours per day. But he’s still keeping up with his teaching load by delivering his lectures virtually from his upstairs office in his home.

Snow College has a mask mandate, he said, but a lot of students take their masks off when they walk outside and sometimes inside, he said. And he said he hasn’t seen anybody coming out of Maverik in Ephraim with a mask on.

“Which is crazy,” Gardner said. “I don’t understand what’s happening in this country. “Scientists are attacked. I feel like I’m not in the same country I grew up in.”

Sam Satterwhite of Longview, Texas owned Satterwhite Log Homes in Gunnison, one of the national company’s three sites. Satterwhite visited Gunnison a few times each year. His company donated to community causes. In 2014, the Six County Association of Governments chose Satterwhite as the Sanpete County Business of the Year.

Satterwhite, who had Type 1 diabetes, died on Saturday, Nov. 14, in Longview of COVID-19. He was a few days shy of his 69th birthday.

“Words fail to justly describe the person Sam was,” his obituary said. “He was a loving son, devoted husband, amazing father, legendary Papa, brother, uncle, cousin, father-in-law and friend. He was a visionary and true servant…. He enriched the lives of everyone he knew.”

Satterwhite’s daughter, Christi Satterwhite Amos, said Satterwhite loved his employees. “It’s hard to describe. It wasn’t like a boss-employee relationship, your standard relationship. They loved him. They cared about him.”

Correspondingly, she said, “If they got sick, [he] gave them what they needed. They were family.”

Amos said taking COVID-19 precautions is about saving lives. “I wish that the person that my dad got it from had had a mask on. And that my dad had had a mask on,” she said. If they had, she said, things might be different.

She acknowledges people are “sick of quarantine,” but “sometimes it does take something life-altering” to alter opinions about something, she said.

“[COVID-19] may not affect everybody the same way, but there is enough of the population that we need to protect,” she said.

“Scientists are attacked. I feel like I’m not in the same country I grew up in.”
—Dr. Paul Gardner, professor of biology at Snow College, who was diagnosed on Nov. 14 and is now teaching from home.