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Mourning Over 1,000 Iowans Lost To COVID-19

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Michael Leland/IPR
A West Des Moines church marked the deaths of more than a thousand Iowans from COVID-19 by ringing its bell 1,000 times Sunday evening. The ceremony on the front lawn of the West Des Moines United Methodist Church also included a reading of many of the names of the state’s COVID-19 victims.⁠

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, we’re going to take some time to remember and mourn the Iowans who have died of COVID-19. Not as numbers or statistics, but as men and women, people who loved and were loved.

It was March 24th when we learned that the first Iowan had died of COVID-19. Back then we were hopeful that we could slow the spread of the disease and turn the tide of the pandemic. Maybe even that in our state, with a small population and wide-open spaces things would be different. It's been five months and Iowa has passed a grim milestone. More than 1,000 Iowans are dead from COVID-19. Yesterday we learned that the first Iowa child, 5 years old or younger, has died.

Another thing this virus has taken from us are the rituals we take comfort in when someone dies. Funerals are different. Gatherings are dangerous. Hugs can spread disease. The tracking of the virus and recording of statistics has turned lives into numbers. Political divisions and the stigma of disease have left many in silence.

Host Charity Nebbe speaks with those who lost loved ones, and others who've spoken with many mourning lives lost to COVID-19.

Rick Brewer produced this story as part of the America Amplified initiative using community engagement to inform and strengthen local, regional and national journalism. America Amplified is a public media initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Guests:

Michael Lensing, co-owner, Lensing Funeral and Cremation Services in Iowa City

Amy Buckendahl, daughter-in-law of Donna Breese

Ryan Foley, news correspondent, Associated Press

Anita Jung, daughter of Dorothea Jung

Mitch Fick, morning anchor, Iowa News Now

John Stahmer, son of Mel Stahmer

Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa
Rick Brewer is a producer for IPR's Talk of Iowa and River to River