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500,000 US COVID-19 deaths | A look back at lives lost in the DMV

The National Cathedral will again ring its bells to honor COVID-19 deaths. It's worth reflecting on those lives lost, and to be remembered, in the region.

WASHINGTON — The coronavirus death toll in the United States reached 500,000 people on Monday. The National Cathedral will once again ring its bells Monday to honor the dead.

And as this number marker is sadly surpassed, we especially remember those lost in DC, Maryland and Virginia.

We lost Dr. Joseph J. Costa from Baltimore, a critical care doctor fighting the very virus that killed him. 

"He dedicated his life and career to caring for the sickest patients. And when the pandemic came down upon us, Joe selflessly continued his work on the front lines — deeply committed to serving our patients and our City during this time of great need. His memory will live on as an example to us all," the hospital he worked at said in a statement about its beloved doctor.

Credit: WUSA9
Dr. Joseph J. Costa, the Chief of Critical Care at Mercy Hospital in Baltimore died from COVID-19 this week.

We lost Leilani Jordan, a 27-year-old grocery store worker from Largo, Maryland. Her mother told WUSA9 last year that Leilani wanted to keep working at the grocery store during the pandemic to make sure others could get the items they needed. 

"She said, 'Mommy, I'm going to go to work. I'm going to still go to work. I want to help.'" 

Credit: WUSA9
Leilani Jordan is the employee who died, and last worked at the Campus Way South store on March 16.

We lost Helen Marie White, a beloved cosmetology teacher at Ballou Stay Opportunity Academy in DC. White was among the first volunteers to return to the classroom in the fall and yearned to help her students during this pandemic. 

“She was excited and willing to come in to teach a craft that she loved," said her co-worker in an interview.

Credit: Ballou Stay Opportunity Academy

We lost a Maryland mother of four named Wogene Debele, who contracted the virus at the end of her pregnancy. Her last gift to the world was bringing a baby boy into it before dying three weeks later. 

"This one is hard," said Takoma Park Mayor Kate Stewart back in April 2020. Stewart's daughter went to school with Debele's 17-year-old daughter.

Credit: Debele family photo

We lost Gary Holmberg. A retired DC firefighter that for decades gave his time to helping others and was a great father to his two kids. He was one of many nursing home deaths that have been seen across the country that showed the devastating impact the virus has on the elderly.

"I just held his hand and told him I love him," said his son in an interview last year. "Told him he did a great job as a father and taught everybody a lot. Not to worry." 

Credit: Tracy Shavell

We lost nurse Celia Marcos, whose work at hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic helped many.

While working her shift on April 3, 2020, a patient in the ward she oversaw at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center stopped breathing. Celia immediately rushed to his room to begin chest compressions, trying to resuscitate him. She did this knowing that he was a COVID-19 patient, and she only had a surgical mask for her protection. She knew she was placing herself at risk 

Fourteen days later, she passed away, dying in the same hospital where she'd worked for over 16 years. She was 61 years old. 

These are just a few of the lives lost in this region that have been felt by many, giving just a little insight into how COVID-19 has impacted families and loved ones. 

There are countless more stories of great people, caring people, people who will forever be remembered in the communities they helped build and the lives they lead.

The National Cathedral will have its Bell Toll at 5 p.m. this Monday. It will ring 500 times for 500,000 coronavirus victims. WUSA9 will stream the Bell Toll.

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