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Janeth Nuñez del Prado, a social worker in Albuquerque, said her father had booked a flight from Bolivia to the United States to try to get the COVID-19 vaccine, which he didn’t have access to in his home country.
But he fell ill shortly before the trip. And on May 27, Hugo Nuñez del Prado, a 62-year-old father of five, died of COVID at a Bolivian hospital.
“He wanted to come get it. He got plane tickets,” Janeth Nuñez del Prado said. “It’s extra heartbreaking because he almost made it.”
Still grieving her father’s death, Nuñez del Prado became the New Mexico leader of Marked by COVID, an organization that has been lobbying Congress to set aside a day to remember all those who have died of the disease. More than 4 million people across the globe, including more than 600,000 Americans, have died of the disease.
The lobbying effort reached a milestone this week, when Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., and the two Democratic senators from Massachusetts introduced a Senate resolution to memorialize those lost to the COVID—19 virus.
The resolution calls for the first Monday in March to become “COVID-19 Victims and Survivors Memorial Day.”
“New Mexicans have lost 4,415 family members and friends to COVID-19 already, and the loss grows each day,” Heinrich said in a statement. “We need this official memorial day to honor the memory of those we’ve lost, acknowledge the continuing grief felt by their loved ones, and recognize those still coping with the long-term effects of the virus. I’m proud to be a part of the effort to make this happen.”
Massachusetts Sens. Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren – whose older brother died of COVID early in the pandemic – introduced the resolution with Heinrich.
Nuñez del Prado, who met with officials in Heinrich’s office as the resolution was being crafted, said those who lost loved ones to COVID carry added layers of grief.
“I don’t feel like my dad died,” she said. “I feel like he vanished.”
As the country reopens and people celebrate a return to normalcy, Nuñez del Prado said she feels left behind. She is overwhelmed by the debate about the vaccine, the need to wear masks and how politicized people have become about the virus.
“It adds to the complexity of our pain that people here aren’t getting the vaccine because they’re victims of misinformation,” she said.
Nuñez del Prado is organizing a march to remember COVID-19 victims at 10 a.m. Aug. 14, at Tiguex Park in Old Town.