COVID FAMILY PROJECT 1: Remain Vigilant, Plus a Recovery Tale

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By Douglas John Imbrogno | editor | jan11.2021

Greetings. Let’s cut to the chase as we officially launch WestVirginiaVille’s year-long COVID Family Project 2021. We’re featuring articles, videos, and audio stories from the pandemic front lines. See stories of family loss and recovery and the people striving to halt the rising tide of infections and death.

VIDEO SUMMARY: In our initial video (below), we feature a host of subjects. Among them is Dr. Michael Kilkenny, physician director of Cabell-Huntington Health Department, who warns of rising COVID cases. “It’s really expanded greatly and we have rapid transmission all through the community right now.” We hear from West Virginians old, young, and in-between. They seek out tests or they’ve begun to get vaccinated. They’re worried for loved ones, children, and themselves. WestVirginiaVille’s own Minister of Paragraphs, Connie Kinsey recounts how she and her mother caught a mild yet persistent infection. It knocked both for a loop, and appears to have left her mother with long-term damage to her health.

NOTE: This series is free to other media to reprint, so long as stories, videos and audio are not altered (except to change date references). Any reprints or re-use must credit and retain any logos. The COVID Family Project 2021 is licensed under the Creative Commons CC BY-ND 4.0 license. FOR MORE INFORMATION, USE OUR CONTACT PAGE OR E-MAIL:

Remain Vigilant

Vaccinations are being rolled out, but it’s the early phases. The Huntington Herald-Dispatch reports that more than 1,400 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in West Virginia on Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021. That makes a total of 101,212 cases statewide in less than a year. A dozen new virus-related deaths occurred statewide on that Sunday, for a total of 1,582. It should be remembered that such a number means the loss of 1,582 mothers, fathers, children, aunts, uncles, grandparents, neighbors, and best friends.

Intimate deaths takes their toll on the living, too. Maybe one of your loved ones or friends has passed from COVID, and you know the devastation of losing someone key to you from a pandemic that might have been managed far better and continues to threaten us all. (One story in this series will be my personal account of losing a dear, 63-year-old high school friend from COVID on Dec. 27, 2020—his mother died of it two weeks prior.)


We’re seeking personal stories from the COVID pandemic. If you’ve a story of loss or recovery, or are a front-line worker and would like your story considered for inclusion in our COVID FAMILY PROJECT 2021 series, contact us with a description via our Contact page. Or email:

Just because vaccines are now on the scene does not mean we’re over the hump — or anywhere near it. Learning that a family member, neighbor or acquaintance has been vaccinated or has recovered from a mild case should not cause us to ease up on our vigilance, but to increase it.

There will be every desire to relax our attention because of quarantine-exasperation or annoyance with masks. The result could be deadly. So, wear masks everywhere. Avoid congregating in public spaces, most especially smaller enclosed places with circulating air systems. If using public transportation, make every effort to stay masked. Wash hands routinely and bring hand sanitizer everywhere you go.

Be safe.

Guidon Grundlehner gets a COVID test while in his car in the parking lot of Cabell-Huntington Health Department in Huntington WV

CDC Guide on How to Protect from COVID

Here a link to a helpful CDC safety guide on COVID-19: “How to Protect Yourself and Others.” Sample guidance:

  • Continue to keep about 6 feet between yourself and others. The mask is no substitute for social distancing. Masks help prevent you from getting or spreading the virus.
  • You could spread COVID-19 to others even if you do not feel sick.
  • Older adults and people who have certain underlying conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. More information on Are you at higher risk for serious illness?
  • Avoid crowds. The more people you are in contact with, the more likely you are to be exposed to COVID-19.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. If possible, maintain 6 feet between the person who is sick and other household members.| READ ON
COVID Testing Sites Across West Virginia


CLICK TO VIEW: A video by Media | Shot & edited by Bobby Lee Messer

SHARE THIS VIDEO: Please include credit beneath video

YOUTUBE LINK: Click here.
CREDIT: The COVID Family Project 2021 by is licensed under the following Creative Commons CC BY-ND 4.0 license.


“It’s really expanded greatly,” says Cabell-Huntington Health Department Physician Director Michael Kilkenny, of the spread of the COVID virus.| image 2021

It’s another day at the mall. Drivers find a slot to park, switch off their cars, unload the kids and make their way into the mall. Except for one thing—they mask up first. A global pandemic grips the planet that has killed more than 340,000 Americans and more than 1 million people worldwide.

For Michael Kilkenny, physician director of the Cabell-Huntington Health Department, making sure people take COVID seriously fills his every waking hour, especially as it’s possible to catch COVID anywhere. And at any time.

KILKENNY: “I couldn’t imagine it being much worse than it’s getting. It took us months to get to 700 cases and we had 700 cases the week before last. It’s really expanded greatly. And we have rapid transmission all through the community, right now.”

WV: Infections and COVID deaths are rising everywhere. Hyper-vigilance is essential for survival for loved ones and ourselves, said Kilkenny. Yet with COVID vaccine shots now being rolled out, protection from the virus will be increasingly possible, he said, as vaccinations become commonplace.

Vehicles wait in a long line to for a COVID test to be administered while they sit in their car in the Cabell-Huntington Health Department in Huntington WV | image from viideo | jan2021

KILKENNY: “Priority protocol involves first-line health care workers because we know that they’re going to need immunity to get through this surge. And, then, those people who are older and in congregate living situations like nursing homes. The general population, I think, we’ll attack from the top down entirely, in terms of age. So, I would expect that we might see 80-and-above. Or 65-and-above or 50-and-above. And it may come down step-wise as we get more and more vaccine available.”

WV: Even as vaccinations raise hopes of reducing the death toll, COVID testing for young and old continues on a daily basis in the health department parking lot in Huntington, West Virginia.

WANDA GAY BIRD: “I think that I need it because it’s a dangerous time to get it. And I have more chance of not getting over it easily.”

“I think it’s important because you’re around a lot of people,” said Kendra Smith of the importance of getting tested and wearing masks. | image from video| jan2021

ELIZABETH SMITH: “My husband tested positive on Friday, he got sick on Thursday. So, he tested positive and then the Health Department said to wait so many days, you know, for us to get tested. So, here we are.”

KENDRA SMITH: “I think it’s important because you’re around a lot of people. You’re around more people than you realize who have health conditions that they might not even know about, or know how serious they are. So, just to help other people, we should do it and be responsible.”

WV: “We caught up with Brittany Bays, who works in an office at the local VA hospital and has received a vaccination shot already. As the parent of a six-year-old, she is fiercely protective of her child getting infected and possibly suffering lifelong health problems.”

BRITTANY BAYS: “I don’t want him to have caught it early on and me not know about it — and then there’d be long-term effects that we don’t know about. As far as concerning, like … I know there was in New York, there was a study on brain swelling with it. And I don’t want that to have an effect on his cognitive abilities or anything like that.”

“It would be devastating for you to find out that you’re a cause of somebody dying or getting really, really sick,” said Brittany Bays of the wisdom of getting tested and of masking up. | image from video | jan2021

WV: I asked Bays — as someone who works at a hospital — what she would say to people not wearing masks in public or who wear them off their noses?

BRITTANY BAYS: “Well, I understand the frustration. It’s not fun. But it is just … it should only be, like, a temporary thing. It might go into next year, but it will be over and you could save … just think about people that you’re saving lives for. It would be devastating for you to find out that you’re a cause of somebody dying or getting really, really sick, then to have been a little bit of discomfort for you.”

“It’s simple — watch out for your neighbor.”

CONNIE KINSEY: “I was working hard not to get COVID. My mother has COPD and I was very concerned about that. So, we were washing hands and wearing masks and socially isolating and doing all the things that you’re supposed to do. And I woke up and I just didn’t feel right. I had a headache and — losing my math here. I had a headache and a little bit of trouble out-of-breath. I went up the stairs and was out of breath.”

WV: She had feared her mother might get COVID, but was extremely careful and so was surprised when she was diagnosed. She believes she got the virus from her mother who she thinks likely got it at church. They both had mild cases, except hers was like a cold that never went away. A recent doctor’s appointment underscored how even a mild COVID infection can leave bad news behind.

“For me, it’s simple science,” says Connie Kinsey. | image from video | jan2021

CONNIE KINSEY: “I had my mother in the hospital for something unrelated just here this past month. And she is newly diagnosed with heart failure — and her primary physician tells us it’s probably COVID, because she’d never had a problem before. I’m a little angry because people aren’t taking it seriously. They won’t wear a mask. It’s become a almost a political statement as to whether you wear a mask or not. For me, it’s simple science. It’s simple — watch out for your neighbor.”


Bringing Covid-19 Testing Home to a Huntington WV Community: May 23, 2020: As America passes the shocking number of 100,000 people dead from Covid-19, free testing has been rolled out across West Virginia. Part of the aim last week was to get the measure of the impact of the virus on African-American communities in the state.

Pandemic Memorial Video Project: may7.2020: A couple of weeks ago, they began appearing. Brief, heart-wounded, heartfelt memoriams on Twitter. They note the passing of mothers, fathers, grandparents, kids. I began to screen capture some of them. I wasn’t sure why.

HERE COMES the TSUNAMI: Getting Ready for Loss in a Pandemic: april4.2020: A huge wave of dying and grief is headed our way from the Covid-19 pandemic. And for that we must be prepared to share the burden—and share the joy, even—of coming together even as things fall apart.

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