Shafqat Khan was one of the early victims of COVID-19.
The Jersey City resident died in April 2020, isolated from family and friends. His relatives got to watch his funeral via Livestream.
Following his death, his daughter Sabila, also of Jersey City co-founded a Facebook group of families who lost loved ones to the pandemic.
“We can’t allow this to happen again,” Khan said, holding a framed picture of her father.
As the U.S. death toll nears to 1 million victims, Khan and representatives of other COVID advocacy groups gathered outside the U.S. Capitol with U.S. Sens. Robert Menendez and Patty Murray, D-Wash., to push for legislation designed to prevent a repeat of the coronavirus pandemic.
It was part of the National Week of COVID Remembrance & Action, organized by several groups of individuals who lost their loved ones to the virus.
“My daughter Elsie recently celebrated her fourth birthday – her second without her dad,” said said Pamela Addison of Waldwick, founder of Young Widows and Widowers of COVID-19. “My heart breaks for my little girl, but survivors like me are doing all we can to make sure those we lost to COVID did not die in vain.”
The groups endorsed more funding to combat the virus, as requested by President Joe Biden but being held up by Senate Republicans, and an independent, blue-ribbon commission modeled after the 9/11 panel to investigate the U.S. response to the pandemic and come up with recommendations to prevent a repeat.
“With this week of remembrance and action, we honor the memory of all the lives lost to COVID-19 in our nation and seek to turn our pain into purpose, our grief into growth,” Menendez said. “We must honor the victims, learn from our nation’s response, and find ways to prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again.
The White House warned Wednesday that failure to pass another round of COVID-19 funding would prevent the U.S. from buying enough vaccines for Americans who still need them, have enough drugs on hand to treat the virus, and continue production of coronavirus tests at a time when they are no longer in as much demand as they were previously.
More than 992,000 Americans have died of the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University. New Jersey has recorded 33,416 deaths
— 30,382 confirmed fatalities and 3,034 probable.
Khan’s group, COVID-19 Loss Support for Family and Friends, now has more than 14,000 members. Its co-founder, Angelina Proia of New York City, lost her father just a few days after Shafqat Khan passed away.
Like Sabila Khan, Proia discussed the isolation she felt as her father died alone. The family couldn’t mourn together. They couldn’t hug. They couldn’t even say goodbye in person.
“That totally takes something from you,” Proia said.