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She Avoided COVID for Months. A Generous Act Undid It All

NJ nurse's mother gave ride home to a friend with a cough
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 7, 2020 7:37 AM CST

(Newser) – A New Jersey nurse who works in a nursing home and is "well versed in COVID-19 safety protocols" had managed to keep herself and her immediate family safe from the virus since the pandemic started earlier this year. That streak recently came to an end, however, after what NorthJersey.com calls "a single act of generosity" that ended up sickening Sofia Burke and her entire household. PIX11 talked to the 43-year-old Thursday from her hospital bed at Hackensack University Medical Center, and she explained that in November, her 66-year-old mom had given a ride to an elderly friend who had a cough, though she thought it was just a cold. Both women wore masks, with the windows down to let extra air in, but the friend unknowingly had COVID-19, and Burke thinks the virus settled on surfaces inside the car. By Thanksgiving, Burke, her parents, brother, husband, and three kids, including her toddler with diabetes, were all sick.

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Burke's father, 93-year-old Otto Bowless, died from the virus, while other family members are still recuperating. Her mom, for instance, still needs supplemental oxygen for the smallest activity. "My mother left her guard down for one moment—one moment," Burke told CNN on Wednesday, per the Washington Post. Burke, admitted to the hospital with pneumonia brought on by COVID-19, hasn't been able to mourn her father in the usual way. "With my shortness of breath, I [can't] even cry," she says, per NorthJersey.com. "Every time I cry, my oxygen goes down." She also has a message for people who don't take the virus seriously and are ignoring safety guidelines. "Wouldn't you want to walk away with your family alive, healthy?" Burke told CNN. "You don't want to spend the money you have on funerals and burying your loved ones." (Read more COVID-19 stories.)

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