'Such a sense of loss': 30 more COVID-19 deaths in Illinois as U.S. toll reaches 200,000

  • Illinois labs processed 41,829 COVID-19 tests in the last 24 hours and the state's positivity rate is 3.5%.

    Illinois labs processed 41,829 COVID-19 tests in the last 24 hours and the state's positivity rate is 3.5%. Photo courtesy of the University of Illinois

  • Healthy and released from a rehab center, 91-year-old Robert Kanney was thrilled to return to his Vernon Hills home. Two days later, he learned someone with him in rehab had tested positive for COVID-19, and three days after that Kanney became another coronavirus death.

    Healthy and released from a rehab center, 91-year-old Robert Kanney was thrilled to return to his Vernon Hills home. Two days later, he learned someone with him in rehab had tested positive for COVID-19, and three days after that Kanney became another coronavirus death. Courtesy of Anne Gulotta

  • Unable to have a traditional memorial service for her father, Robert Kanney of Vernon Hills, Anne Gulotta of Barrington places a white rose on her dad's coffin after a brief graveside service.

    Unable to have a traditional memorial service for her father, Robert Kanney of Vernon Hills, Anne Gulotta of Barrington places a white rose on her dad's coffin after a brief graveside service. Courtesy of Anne Gulotta

  • Robert Kanney of Vernon Hills died from COVID-19.

    Robert Kanney of Vernon Hills died from COVID-19. Courtesy of Anne Gulotta

 
 
Updated 9/23/2020 10:57 AM

Illinois recorded 1,531 new cases of COVID-19 and 30 additional deaths as the nation hit a heartbreaking milestone Tuesday with 200,000 people dying from the virus -- parents, siblings, friends and Anne Gulotta's dad, Robert Kanney.

"The last words he said to me were, 'Bless you,'" Gulotta recalled the 91-year-old saying by phone from his hospital bed the afternoon of March 29.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Kanney was "the glue that kept us together," Gulotta said, but that night, because of COVID-19 restrictions, he died alone at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville.

"We couldn't be there to say goodbye," said Gulotta, of Barrington. "There was no closure in the process and I think that's what lingers the most."

So far, Illinois' total infections stand at 277,266 with 8,486 deaths, the Illinois Department of Public Health announced.

Meanwhile, the Cook County Department of Public Health has added Wisconsin to a list of states from which returning residents are asked to quarantine for 14 days because of a COVID-19 surge.

Kanney's age bracket of 80 and older comprises the most deaths from COVID-19 in Illinois -- 45%. Residents ages 79 to 70 make up 24% of deaths compared to people ages 69 to 60 with 17.5%, and those ages 59 to 50 with 8%. The remaining 5.5% of deaths takes in people age 49 and younger.

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Men killed by the pandemic outnumber women by a 53.8% to 46.2% average, according to IDPH data.

On March 24, the state was just three days into a stay-at-home order, health care workers were still learning about the virus and a jubilant Kanney had just returned home to Vernon Hills after recovering from pneumonia.

It turned out someone at his rehab center tested positive for COVID-19 and, on March 27, the retired electrical engineer went to hospital with symptoms.

After his death, just four members of Kanney's family were able to mourn at a stark, 10-minute graveside service instead of a full Catholic mass with his three daughters, their families, relatives and friends.

Six months later, "there's such a sense of loss," Gulotta said.

"Looking out the window and visualizing my dad in the yard or days when he gardened here ... his gentleness. He was just happy to be with us."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Gulotta has endured blows before ­ -- her mother passed away in 1993 and her husband died of suicide -- but the harsh realities of the virus are unique and remind her of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1996.

"Sometimes, I feel like we are living our own type of Chernobyl, because people are just dying every day and we can't get near them because it's contagious and we could die. It's like a deep sore that needs time to heal. My family and I will get there but this will take some time."

Gulotta's sister and brother-in-law, who lived with her father, contracted COVID-19, were hospitalized and are still dealing with the impact.

She tells people with older parents to "heed the warnings, because it can happen to any of us and taking precautions can save a life."

"I don't think everyone gets it," Gulotta added. "They chose to believe this thing will work itself out. This is a real thing.

"I hope if there's any lessons learned, especially knowing we've lost over 200,000 lives already, is that we don't take little things for granted so much, and that we embrace the positive side of life. Love one another, be kind, and we'll be able to get through this time a lot easier."

Illinois labs reported 41,829 virus tests in the last 24 hours and Illinois' seven-day virus positivity rate is 3.5%.

In the last seven days, the state averaged 1,865 daily virus infections, a 10% increase from Sept. 9 to 15 when the average tally was 1,694.

As of Monday night, 1,455 patients were in Illinois hospitals with the disease compared to the seven-day average of 1,483.

Among the 30 new Illinois deaths are: a DuPage County woman in her 80s, a Lake County woman in her 70s, and a Will County man in his 70s. Also in Cook County, fatalities include a woman in her 30s, two men in their 60s, and two women and a man in their 80s.

• Daily Herald Staff Writer Burt Constable contributed to this report.

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