RICHMOND, Va. -- The sounds of a ringing bell echoed 19 times across the campus of Virginia Union University on Monday. Every chime represented a somber reminder of the more than 19,000 Virginians who have died from the coronavirus.
“Nobody knows what it feels like when you get up every morning and your child is gone," said Louise Allen.
Louise lost her son, Kelvin Allen, to COVID-19 in September 2021.
“I never thought he would go this way. This is my baby boy," she said. "He was jovial, funny and loved children."
Allen said she feels the heartache of losing him seven days a week and leans on her faith to get her through rough days.
"I wake up every day, and all I can do is pray," she said. "God will get me through it."
Allen was one of the dozens who gathered at VUU Monday for a COVID-19 Remembrance Day memorial. Faith leaders, lawmakers and government officials shared prayers and tributes to victims of COVID-19.
“It’s very uplifting," Allen said. "It makes you feel better.”
State Delegate Delores McQuinn's (D-70) resolution designating every March 14 since 2021 as COVID-19 Remembrance Day in Virginia passed the general assembly last year.
On that date in 2020, the Virginia Department of Health recorded its first-ever coronavirus death, but McQuinn said this day also recognizes those who have been affected financially, mentally or any other way.
“The aftermath of this has been also suicide rates and domestic abuse and child abuse," McQuinn said. "And so all around, it has been devastating.”
Two years into the pandemic and Virginians are now learning how to live with COVID-19. Masks are optional almost everywhere, restrictions are long gone and weekly case counts have reached a new low since summer 2021.
Meanwhile, leaders who spoke at Monday's event said COVID-19 is still alive and even decreasing numbers symbolize lives impacted by the pandemic.
"We've got to be vigilant," Delegate McQuinn said. "We don't know what is around the corner either. We don't know if there's another variant that will be affecting us."
She also said she's had conversations about creating a physical memorial to honor victims of COVID-19, potentially in Richmond or at the state capitol.
According to the CDC, most of Virginia is experiencing low or medium levels of disease transmission. The only locality in Central Virginia where the spread is high is Prince George County.