3 members of same Missouri family die of coronavirus, 5 more sickened

Tim Fitzsimons
·2 min read

Covid-19 has taken an enormous toll on one St. Louis woman's family, leaving her mother and two relatives dead, while also sickening her and four other family members.

"The biggest thing I would tell people that's short and sweet is that this thing is real, and to please protect yourself in every way that you possibly can," Erin Griffin said.

Griffin, 40, who lives in the St. Louis suburb of Florissant, Missouri, said that Covid first struck her 72-year-old great uncle, Cornelius Brooks, who died in April from the virus while in a nursing home.

A month later her mother Venita Griffin, 67, and great uncle Kenneth Dortch, 74, also died from Covid-19.

"My biggest fear in my entire life was losing my mother," Griffin told NBC affiliate KSDK.

Venita Griffin, center, with her daughters Lawanda, left, and Erin. (Courtesy Erin Griffin)
Venita Griffin, center, with her daughters Lawanda, left, and Erin. (Courtesy Erin Griffin)

Griffin said she was diagnosed with an "upper respiratory" infection earlier this year, which resurged "at the same time when everybody came down with the really bad symptoms," and suspects she contracted coronavirus while acting as caretaker for her family members.

Her sister, Lawanda Griffin, also contracted the virus and spent a month in a coma with Covid-19.

"My sister actually was in a coma at the time my mother passed, so she had to wake up to the news of my mother's passing," Griffin said.

Griffin's 14-year-old son, 82-year-old grandmother and partner also contracted coronavirus and have since recovered.

Griffin explained Tuesday that her sister's coma paralleled another family catastrophe.

Erin Griffin, right, with her sister Lawanda. (Courtesy Erin Griffin)
Erin Griffin, right, with her sister Lawanda. (Courtesy Erin Griffin)

In 2017, Lawanda Griffin became guardian to her granddaughter Deniya after the young girl was critically injured during a triple murder in which her parents were killed, as KSDK reported at the time.

"[Deniya] was in the hospital at the time we had the funeral for her mother and father, so she didn't get the closure that she needed at seven years old," Griffin explained.

As coronavirus resurges across the country, Griffin hopes that her family's difficulties will convince more Americans will take it seriously: "This thing is real, and love your family, and don't take your life for granted," she said.

According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, there have been over 158,000 Covid-19 cases to date in the state and 2,590 deaths.