First, it came for his son.
Tyrone Posey says his wife, 51-year-old Phacethia Posey, began researching coronavirus as soon as the deadly disease started making the headlines. It became more urgent when their son, Tyrone Posey Jr. became the first member of the family to contract the invisible pathogen that would eventually kill three family members in a span of three days, according to the Gadsden Times. Soon, Billy Ray Woods, Phacethia’s father, became the first family to be hospitalized for COVID-19 on March 30.
“After that, we all started getting tested,” said Kyra Porter, Phacethia’s sister. Porter told the Times that she tried to get tested at an urgent care facility in Gadsden, Ala. Despite her incessant coughing, Porter says she was told she didn’t have “enough symptoms” and the facility only had three tests.
The Poseys, Woods and Porters had already decided to end their traditional Sunday gatherings before the illness struck their family when Phacethia realized she had also been infected. Aside from taking medication for rheumatoid arthritis, Phacethia didn’t have any of the underlying conditions often cited as exacerbating the illness. None of the family members worked in the medical industry or had underlying health issues. But as the disease crept through the family tree, Phacethia and her relatives tried every remedy they read about. They inhaled lemon-scented steam. They ingested elderberry and zinc. They tried vitamin C but nothing worked. The virus began ravaging Phacethia’s body, forcing her to be hospitalized.
“She was weak,” Tyrone Posey Sr. told AL.com. “She didn’t want to eat or drink. It was just draining her. The virus attacked her respiratory system. and it progressed until she was hospitalized.” It eventually shut down her oxygen and kidneys.”
As Phacethia fought COVID-19, Tyrone was in his own battle with the virus. He lost his sense of taste and smell, adding that “I felt like I was being twisted in my stomach. But what really bothered him was that he couldn’t be by his wife’s side, as she had stood by his side during a brief hospitalization last year.
“Those seven nights she spent (hospitalized) were miserable for me, and I know they were for her,” Thomas Sr. said.
On Monday, April 13, Phacethia became the first member of her family to lose the battle with COVID-19. Five days later, on Saturday, Phacethia’s father, Billy Ray Woods became the second. Her cousin, Michael Woods, also died on Saturday.
So far, Phacethia, her sister Kyra Porter, Kyra’s husband Tony Porter, Thomas Posey Sr., Thomas Posey Jr., Phacethia’s mother Barbara Woods, her sister Johnjalene Woods, and Phacethia’s cousin Michael have all tested positive for COVID-19–a total of nine family members.
The rest of the family members are still quarantining, isolating themselves as they recover from the illness. They say they would like to be tested but are unable to find a place in Gadsden that will retest them.
According to the Covid Tracking Project, only 45,798 Alabamians—less than 1 percent of the state’s population—have been tested for the coronavirus. Even with the lack of available testing, the Trump administration continues to push governors to “open up” their economies by lifting stay-at-home orders meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
State health officials and medical providers around the country say they are unable to test as many people as they would like. Many of them say the biggest challenge is getting not the diagnostic tests themselves but the supplies to process them, including chemical reagents, swabs and pipettes. Manufacturers are facing a huge global demand as every country fights the pandemic, with many attempting the widest-scale testing they have ever undertaken.
“We’re at a really critical juncture and the supply chain has not yet caught up,” Scott Becker, chief executive of the Association of Public Health Laboratories, said on Wednesday…
“Testing should be a priority for vulnerable populations—that would be prisons, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and, last but not least, minorities and disadvantaged communities,” said Dr. James E. K. Hildreth, an infectious disease expert and president of Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn.
Posey, now a widower, says he often sees friends and relatives coming to visit, still hugging each other and not wearing masks.
“They know it’s happening, but they’re not taking it seriously,” said Posey. “This is real.”