Last week saw two harrowing milestones for COVID-19 in Allen County: the number of cases passed 2,500 and the number of deaths passed 100. As of Monday, the numbers were 2,649 and 107, respectively.
One of those 107 deaths was 52-year-old Diana Kay Wotnow. She died June 14 after battling the virus for 46 days. The 30-year employee of City Utilities was a wife and the mother of two sons, one of whom recently married. Diana graduated from Northrop High School in 1986 and she loved music, reading and searching antique malls for vintage Fisher-Price toys, her family noted in her obituary.
“She was the bravest, strongest, most wonderful person I ever met,” Mary Schmidt, a co-worker of Wotnow's, said Monday. “I miss her every day.”
Schmidt said Wotnow was a kidney transplant recipient, but “this didn't have to happen. It's a terrible loss for Fort Wayne; to her family.”
“We all have a responsibility to each other,” she said. “Your mask protects you, but it also protects others. You have to be mindful of those who are at risk.
“Diana was a young woman. She was so much fun to be around. I can hear her laugh in my head right now,” Schmidt said. “I just don't understand how people can believe this is a hoax.”
A trip anywhere beyond your front door proves many area residents are not taking COVID-19 precautions seriously. Social distancing guidelines are routinely ignored and fewer and fewer are wearing masks when they venture out.
Mixed messages from elected officials don't help, but Vice President Mike Pence finally seemed to grasp the seriousness of the public health threat on Sunday. Speaking at a church in Dallas, he beseeched Americans to wear masks, practice social distancing and stay away from senior citizens to protect them. He also praised Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for rescinding some reopening measures, including a rollback on bar openings.
It's tempting to look at the surging numbers of cases in Texas, Florida and elsewhere and believe Hoosiers have successfully battled the coronavirus. But Indiana's record is not stellar. With 6.7 million residents, the state had seen 2,432 deaths as of Monday, with another 192 probable deaths. California, with nearly six times the population, recorded 5,936 deaths as of Monday.
While the numbers are worth noting, they shouldn't be the focus. Behind each one of them is a name, a face, a family. Diana Kay Wotnow was just one of those lives.