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A holiday for family: Thanksgiving 2020 will be a somber occasion for many

It's a time when families typically get together, but COVID-19 has changed many lives forever.

PHOENIX — Health care providers are concerned about the increase in COVID-19 cases, especially as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday.

It's a time when families typically get together, but one Valley family is grieving the loss of a loved one from COVID-19 after a weeks-long fight with the virus.

Alfred Cortez fought COVID-19 for weeks before passing away Monday night. The 87-year-old was the kind of grandpa almost any kid would want.

“You know, my dad loved babies, he loved the little kids,” Sue Hodges said, describing the kind of man her father was. 

“He would sit for hours watching cartoons with them, which was unbelievably patient.”

An engineer by trade, Cortez retired from the U.S. Postal Service before starting a second career as a maintenance worker for Deer Valley, allowing him to continue to work and tinker with things. 

Tinkering was one of Cortez’s favorite activities.

“We grew up, we had broken TVs all over the house because he was always fixing them, or broken radios.” Hodges said.

In early October, Cortez allowed his daughter to take him to the hospital after he developed COVID-19 symptoms that he just couldn’t shake. Both he and his wife were admitted.

His fight with COVID-19 was a roller coaster ride of sorts. After a few days in the hospital, he was discharged, only to be re-admitted a few days later as his oxygen levels dropped.

In the past few weeks, Cortez and his wife were allowed to visit each other, as both were staying on the same floor of the hospital. The family is still praying for a full recovery of Cortez’s wife.

As Thanksgiving approaches, all eyes are on family get-togethers and what that looks like in a world of COVID-19. UArizona has already asked students who plan to head out of the Tucson area for the holiday not to return to campus until the new semester starts. Students are to finish any course work remotely for the remainder of the term.

But all that is background noise to Sue’s family right now, as they try to cope with the reality that the virus has inflicted.

“It just won’t let up. It’s not like a regular virus or the flu in the sense that it just keeps wreaking havoc,” Hodges said.

Banner Health released a prediction Tuesday stating that if the current increase in COVID-19 patients continues, Arizona will have a greater surge this fall that we saw in June.

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