A Local Family’s Bout with COVID-19

Why one member of Jackson's Hispanic community is especially grateful this Thanksgiving.
Many families and friends will be celebrating Thanksgiving on Zoom this year to try to combat the spread of COVID-19. (Courtesy Photo)

by | Nov 26, 2020 | COVID-19, News

Thanksgiving looks a little bit different this year. Families are separated, eating their turkey over Zoom and worrying about a spiking pandemic. But many folks around the Valley have lots to be thankful for. KHOL’s Spanish-language reporter, Alicia Unger, followed one particular family’s bout with COVID-19. 

Her main subject, Isabel Vásquez, works two jobs. In the mornings, it’s a service job. And in the evenings, she bakes cakes to distribute around the local Hispanic community. But things changed quickly for Vásquez and her family when they got together for a community gathering in Idaho. 

“Just like the authorities say, most of the infections are through family members or close friends,” Unger says. “This was like that. It was a gathering and they got infected, and it was like three families getting infected together.

Vázquez lives with seven other family members in one mobile home in the valley. And several people in her household have health issues. Vázquez’s husband has knee problems, and her mother and two in-laws all have either physical or mental health issues. So it was almost the worst-case scenario when Vázquez heard that everyone in her family tested positive for the Coronavirus, except herself. Unger said Vázquez was then forced to quarantine separately from her family for 14 days. 

The health department sent her to a hotel and they kept the rest of the family in the house so she wouldn’t be contagious,” she said.

Vázquez feared that, without access to a kitchen, she would lose her job baking cakes. She also felt helpless because she couldn’t run her house, and broke down crying at the beginning of quarantine.

But she also says she kept faith in God that everything would be OK, and that there was some higher reason that she was being isolated right before Thanksgiving. And everything, it turned out, was OK. She didn’t lose her job, and her entire family recovered. After 14 days, she was back in her mobile home baking cakes. 

“She makes her mom and her mother-in-law help her in little things,” Alicia Unger explains. “The mom is very ill. And the way the mom helps is by holding the dish where Isabel is mixing the ingredients for the cake. And when I went there, she was very proud. The mom is holding it where they mix the ingredients for the cake. And the mother-in-law was cracking the eggs. I thought it was so cute. Everybody’s so nice. And they feel that they make a contribution. That’s so honorable.”

Unger says Vázquez is thankful for the Teton County Health Department for housing her for free and providing medicine to her family at no cost. She’s also thankful to the local Hispanic community, who brought food and assistance to the mobile home and her hotel room whenever she needed it. Still, Unger says the family was lucky. They all recovered. But their story is a cautionary tale for how quickly COVID can spread and how we all need to be vigilant. 

We, as Mexicans, like to hug and kiss our family and friends. It’s very sad for many of us not to be able to hug and kiss,” Unger says. “And the word that I’m trying to pass is you can not hug them. But, touch your heart and let them know that you love them, you know. Touch your heart, and send them kisses. You know, air kisses, and just tell them that you love them. But right now, if you love them, don’t hug them.”

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About Will Walkey

Will is KHOL's first full-time reporter and producer. Originally from Tacoma, Washington, he recently graduated from Columbia University with a Master's Degree in journalism. He likes to read and write about housing, local politics, and history, and spends most of his free time fishing or biking. He's excited to be living in Wyoming, and looks forward to honing in on his unique radio voice by highlighting the locals that make Jackson special. Contact Will with tips at will@jhcr.org, and follow him on Twitter at @WillWalkey.

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