More than 1,000 Coloradans have died from COVID-19; Here are some of their stories

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DENVER (KDVR) – Less than two months ago, Colorado recorded its first confirmed coronavirus death. That number has grown to 1,009 as of Tuesday afternoon, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Soon after March 13, when a woman in her 80s from Colorado Springs died from COVID-19, we started hearing the stories and seeing the faces of other victims. Like Dan Vigil, 68, whose family called him the “heart of Lafayette.” And Freddy Rodriguez Sr., 89, a beloved local jazz musician who’d played his saxophone at El Chapultepec in LoDo for 40 years.

In April, Bob Lazier, 81, an entrepreneur and hotel owner who helped put Vail on the map died from coronavirus complications.

The death of Cody Lyster, 21, on April 8, rocked the state because of his young age. The Aurora native and Colorado Mesa University baseball player was the youngest person in Colorado confirmed to have died from coronavirus, until the death of Jaqueline “Jackie” Paisano, 16, who died from coronavirus complications on April 20. She would have turned 17 this month.

As the numbers spiked, sometimes more than 30 deaths were reported in a single day. Among them, Karen Haws, 67, of Aurora. She was a beloved employee at the King Soopers in Centennial.

The COVID-19 deaths of Gus Kunz, 63, and his wife Sandra, 72, stunned the community. The couple, married 16 years, died just two days apart. Sandra was an employee of the Walmart at 14000 E. Exposition Ave. in Aurora, and her death forced the temporary closure of the store.

An outbreak of coronavirus has left seven workers of a Greeley meatpacking plant dead. Nearly 300 other employees at JBS have tested positive for the virus. The first employee who died from the virus was Saul Sanchez, 78, of Greeley.

The mother of Matthew Huntington, 39, urged Coloradans to stay home after his unexpected death from coronavirus. His fever reached 109 degrees while he was being treated at Swedish Medical Center in March.

Scott Kaplan, 43, seemed to be recovering from the virus after receiving convalescent plasma treatment in April. But Kaplan, who’d fought multiple sclerosis for two decades, took a turn for the worse and died days ago.

When we think of the dangers first responders face, a pandemic is not at the top of the list.  But El Paso County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeff Hopkins, 41, of Colorado Springs, died from coronavirus complications April 1. And Paul Cary, 66, a retired Aurora firefighter died after volunteering to fight the virus on the front lines. He’d traveled to New York City as a paramedic with the Ambulnz coronavirus response team. His body was returned to Denver with a hero’s welcome. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio praised his sacrifice, and promised Cary’s heroism will be forever honored in the city he went to rescue.  

Colorado has reached a heartbreaking milestone in the coronavirus pandemic: more than 1,000 deaths in less than two months. We see the growing number every day on the news. But to more than 1,000 Colorado families, it is so much more than a number.

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