Atlanta, Ga. - Cheryl Catron called her sister on April 1, 2020, and said she was feeling under the weather. She'd been feeling bad at work that day at the Fairburn Police Department. Their mother checked on Catron, an administrative aide, the following day; the 57-year-old was unresponsive and taken to the hospital.
Friday, Cheryl passed away. She tested positive for COVID-19.
"Within 24 hours, she was gone," says Karla Ware, Cheryl's younger sister.
On that day, April 3, 2020, a reported 198 people in Georgia had died of COVID-19.
Since then, more than 1,760 others in the Peach State have been killed by this coronavirus illness: 1,962 total deaths in Georgia, as of Thursday, May 28.
"Our loved ones are not just numbers," says Ware.
That sentiment is almost the precise name of a website behind a new statewide initiative to put faces and names to the hundreds of Georgians who have lost their lives to the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the complications it causes.
Georgians are asked to go to LovedOnesNotNumbers.com to upload a high-quality photo of someone lost to the pandemic--and share something special about them.
"One of the questions on the short form is, 'What do you want the world to know about your loved one?'" says GC2SL representative Jana Johnson-Davis.
"I have not lost anyone directly during this tragedy, but when I have lost a loved one, I wanted the world to stop to know the void that was created in my life," she says.
Rev. Francys Johnson has participated in the funerals of six people who have died from COVID-19, and looking at the state Department of Public Health dashboard of COVID infections and hospitalizations, he fears the deaths will increase as the governor reopens the state on a faster track. He has seen families agonize over not being able to be near their ailing loved ones as they fight to survive.
"Beyond these numbers--the 655 yesterday, the 660 the day before, that 819 the day before that, or the 946 the day before that, these are people," said Johnson. "These are communities. And ultimately these deaths and the consequences will redound for a long time to come."
Ware is eager to tell the world something about her sister, Cheryl Catron--a giver, a sociable person, a skilled decorator, a hostess who oversaw flawless details to a tee. Ware, like countless others, says the grieving process was made harder by the need to safely distance during the pandemic; they had to have only a graveside service for Cheryl. The website, she believes, can help thousands of others with the grieving process.
"What Cheryl meant to me, some other family had someone that meant just as much to them," says Ware.
Award-winning singer/songwriter Avery Sunshine will record an original song for the online tribute.
"We hope to provide a way for us to help cope and to make things a little bit better," says Sunshine. "I'm grateful for this opportunity to provide some music and some healing, hopefully--something to soothe everyone."
Johnson-Davis says putting faces and names to the numbers on the screen is important.
"Some of our leaders have written off our neighbors who have passed because of COVID-19 as collateral damage, but we know that they are much more than that," she says. "We want to personalize this horrible tragedy."