HomeChinese AmericanCoronavirus takes tragic toll on Washington family

Coronavirus takes tragic toll on Washington family

Regina Lee, Willa Lee, and Susie Lee all died from COVID-19 within weeks of each other. This photo is from 2004. (photo from Raymond Lee)

Raymond Lee has experienced in a matter of weeks more grief than any one should have to endure.

The loving father and son lost his mother and two sisters to the coronavirus within 13 days of each other, reports the Seattle Times. On top of that, his daughter died of depression just two years ago at the age of 21. Lee has turned to work as a way of coping.

“I work to keep my mind off the death of my daughter and the death of my mom and sisters,” he said to the Times. “I keep my mind busy. If I didn’t … it would be too difficult. You work to the point of exhaustion. I can’t dwell on it now. There’s too much pain.”

It began when his sister Regina died on March 16. She had collapsed in the bathroom of her home in Everett, WA. Regina’s sister Willa gave Raymond the bad news and also revealed she herself had a fever of 101. Willa would soon be admitted to intensive care.

Days later, Raymond would find his mother Susie in so much pain in her closet that she couldn’t get up. She died on March 27. Willa died two days later.

According to BuzzFeed, Regina had been working as a Costco travel agent in Everett, the epicenter of the coronavirus in the United States at that time. Despite advisories from officials in King County that companies should ask their employees to work at home, Costco resisted saying everyone needed to support those at its stores who could not work at home.

Regina’s co-workers recall she had been coughing badly her last day at work and encouraged her to go home, but she refused. Two days later, she died, becoming the first known Costco employee to die of COVID-19.

More than 100 Costco employees who spoke to BuzzFeed criticized the warehouse club for its lack of transparency and for placing its workers at risk.

“Is business that much more important?” Raymond told BuzzFeed News. “Shame on Costco. They say, ‘We take care of employees.’ Bullsh*t.”

Workers fearing for their jobs agreed to talk to the digital site anonymously.

A manager in Ohio criticized the chain for not following social distancing protocols and for keeping check out counters opened. Workers in Las Vegas criticized the store for allowing customers to touch non-essential items like clothes and patio furniture. One manager in Michigan said elderly hourly workers were asked to clean up an area where an infected employee had been without telling them why they were being asked to do that.

“Working for Costco during this devastating point of time has become a living nightmare,” said a Costco worker in Los Angeles. “They will continue to prioritize the needs of the business over their employees’ well-being, even when we are in a state of emergency. We were never prepared for this.”

Costco declined numerous requests from BuzzFeed for comment saying they were spending too much time responding to the media.

A week after Lee’s death, Costco began implementing more safety measures including letting employees work remotely, adding plexiglass shields to check out counters and providing PPG to its employees.

CEO Craig Jelinek issued a video message to employees on March 30.

“The business of Costco is important, and our communities and coworkers depend on us. But there’s no higher priority than your own well-being and the well-being of your families.”

The pandemic has made it difficult for Raymond to properly say goodbye to his loved ones.

The Times reports he was only allowed to sit in his car outside the cemetery and watch the hearse carrying his sister Regina go by. The funeral director would later give him a picture of the coffin and some sod from her burial plot.

At the funeral of his mother and sister Willa, immediate family was allowed to gather around the burial site.

“I don’t blame our governor,” he said. “We don’t want anyone else to be in jeopardy or give anyone else the possibility of getting the disease, but it was pretty sad.”

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