Wogene Debele was nine months pregnant with her fourth child when she contracted COVID-19 and was admitted to the hospital. Doctors were able to deliver her baby boy three weeks ago, but because of the virus, Debele had to be separated from him immediately.
This week, she lost her battle with the coronavirus before ever getting the chance to hold her newborn baby.
On Wednesday, Mayor Kate Stewart of Takoma Park, Maryland, where Debele was a prominent member of the Ethiopian community, began the city's virtual council meeting with a moment of silence for the beloved local mother and her grieving family.
"This evening, I'd like to start us off with a moment of silence," she said, displaying a picture of Debele with her husband and three older children. "Over the last few weeks, talking to family and friends, and especially today, one of the things that I learned is that her name means 'my community, my people.' And you could tell by her smile in this picture. She meant so much to our community, our broader city… among the Ethiopian community in our city, and in her family. She meant a great deal and it is a tragic loss for all of us right now."
Nationwide, doctors say mostdo not appear to be at a higher risk from the virus, and many at all, but for Debele that was tragically not the case.
Debele's 17-year-old daughter Mihret serves on the city's Youth Council, lobbying for issues important to the young people in her community. After her mother's death, she sent a letter to the mayor thanking the community for the massive showing of support her family has received.
Friends have set up a GoFundMe campaign to help support the family Debele leaves behind.
"Wogene was kind, joyful, and a source of strength to her family and to all who knew her," it reads. "She leaves behind her husband Yilma Asfaw Tadesse, and her beloved children Mihret (17 years old), Naod (10 years old), Asher (4 years old), and the newborn Levi, whom she did not even have the chance to see…. Please continue to keep this family in your prayers."
As of this article's publication, the campaign had raised just over $140,000 toward its $200,000 goal.
According to Mayor Stewart, Debele's newborn baby is now home with his father and siblings — all of them now part of an unthinkably long list of families changed forever by coronavirus.