One year later: Gaston County remembers lives lost to COVID-19

Updated: Mar. 18, 2021 at 9:55 PM EDT
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GASTONIA, N.C. (WBTV) - It’s been one year since the first positive COVID-19 case was confirmed in Gaston County. On Thursday, the county held a ceremony to remember the 406 lives lost to the virus.

As of Thursday, there was been 406 deaths in the county. Virgil Sutton was the second coronavirus-related death to be reported in April 2020.

“When Virgil first got sick, it was like unbelief like surely he didn’t have coronavirus, surely it didn’t hit our family,” said his wife, Donna Sutton.

But, it did.

“Blur of emotions, its a cliche thing to say but you see it happening to everyone else but it’s not going to happen to you until it does,” said Virgil’s son, Caleb Sutton.

A trip to the hospital would be the last time Donna Sutton saw or talked to her husband. Virgil Sutton, a beloved churchgoer, died on Palm Sunday after a two-week battle.

“The past year has been a struggle. I will say if we didn’t have the Lord, we certainly would have not made it,” said Donna Sutton.

Joined by her sons, she shared her story during Thursday’s ceremony.

“It’s real, take it serious, get vaccinated,” Donna Sutton added about COVID-19.

As the evening went on, there were words of comfort to families and tears. Ellen Wright, a communicable disease nurse, recalled her own personal scare with her husband.

Thankfully, he recovered.

Gratitude and praise also went to those fighting the virus on the front lines.

With now three vaccines and mass vaccination clinics happening, there is optimism.

“First time in a long time I felt a sense of hope and a glimmer of excitement,” said Steve Eaton, public health director.

Hope for everyone that this fight we’ve all endured is coming to an end.

“We cannot let our guard down now when we’re so close to the finish line,” Tom Keigher, chairman, board of commissioners.

The county also has plans for a memorial to be installed outside the Public Health building in Gastonia.

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