Milwaukee family marks first Thanksgiving after losing father to COVID-19

Posted at 11:16 PM, Nov 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-30 08:31:05-05

MILWAUKEE — For thousands of Wisconsin families, this Thanksgiving marked the first holiday without a loved one lost to COVID-19.

Data from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services shows 3,307 people have died from COVID-19 complications since the start of the pandemic. DHS data shows 1,843 are hospitalized across the state with the virus.

Thanksgiving was different this year at Elvaughn Riley's home. It was the first Thanksgiving without his father, Lawrence Riley.

"Missing just his jokes, his voice, really, really just a big loss him not being there," Elvaughn Riley said.

Lawrence Riley died after he tested positive for Covid-19 back in March. He was Milwaukee's first coronavirus-related death. He was 66.

Lawrence Riley served in the Navy in Vietnam and spent 12 years as a Milwaukee firefighter.

This summer, on Lawrence's birthday, Elvaughn Riley said his family finally got to host a memorial.

"We honored his spirit really well," Riley said. "Everybody enjoyed it, we had fun, we laughed."

Riley said he wants to make sure other families don't go through the same pain this holiday season.

Health workers worry Covid-19 cases will soar in the weeks following Thanksgiving gatherings, and they are looking to national leaders like Dr. Anthony Fauci for advice.

"I got a couple of calls from colleagues and associates who are very much involved in different states throughout the country, saying, 'We're at that point where we soon if things don't turn around quickly, we're going to have a situation with capacity. Not only of hospital capacity but staff. You know, what do you think we should do?'" Fauci said on NBC's Meet the Press Sunday morning.

Meanwhile, NBC News confirmed the first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine was flown from Brussles, Belgium, to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.

TMJ4 reached out to Pfizer to ask if any part of the shipment would be transported to its facility in Pleasant Prairie. As of late Sunday night, Pfizer had yet to respond.

News of a vaccine gives Riley some hope.

"I don’t want nobody else in the world to go through what I went through losing somebody so important to me," Riley said. "So hearing about vaccines and medications is hope, hope for this country."

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