The Toll: WNY Stories of Loss & Survival in a Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 11,300 people across Western New York. It has also claimed the lives of at least 762 people in our region. But those numbers alone do not adequately tell the story of struggle and loss in Western New York.

Each Thursday in August and September, WBFO will put faces—and voices—on the COVID-19 crisis, telling personal stories of some of the individuals whom we have lost and others who survived the disease.

These intimate interviews illustrate the widespread grief and suffering the coronavirus pandemic has brought to Western New York, as well as the resilience sprouting in its wake. The stories will also serve as a tribute to all those whose lives have been taken or altered deeply by the virus.

A small reporting team led by WBFO’s Kyle Mackie has been interviewing COVID-19 survivors and individuals who have lost family members or loved ones. If you have a COVID-19 story to share, please email Mackie at kmackie@wbfo.org

Courtesy of Paulette Bailey / U.S. Senate

On this first day of October, WBFO concludes its series "The Toll." For the last two months, we've been telling the personal stories of Western New Yorkers who've survived COVID-19 and those who haven't.

But as WBFO's Marian Hetherly reports, another group of people has since emerged that medical experts are just beginning to understand. This group may forecast just how great a toll the coronavirus ultimately takes on our society.

Kyle S. Mackie/WBFO News

Black, Indigenous and other Americans of color are getting sick, being hospitalized and dying from COVID-19 at higher rates than white Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Today on The Toll, WBFO’s Kyle Mackie takes a closer look at the virus’ disproportionate impact through the experience of one Black family on Buffalo’s East Side.


Left and right: Kyle S. Mackie/WBFO News; Center: Courtesy of Fajri Ansari

Black residents account for 16.5% Erie County’s COVID-19 deaths despite making up 14.6% of the county’s population, according to the Erie County Department of Health. Today on “The Toll,” Black community leaders discuss the virus’ disproportionate impact on people of color in Buffalo.


Courtesy of Lori and Gary Gniewecki

With more than 10,390 positive cases of COVID-19 to date, according to state data, Erie County has the highest number of virus infections in all of upstate and Western New York. Today on “The Toll,” a South Cheektowaga couple recounts how they overcame the virus together but apart.


Left: Courtesy of Ondrea Pate; Right: Courtesy of Victoria D'Angelo

More than 40% of the country’s now more than 180,000 COVID-19 deaths are linked to nursing homes, according to a New York Times database. WBFO’s Older Adults Reporter Tom Dinki has been covering the impact on local nursing homes throughout the pandemic. In this week's story from “The Toll,” he spoke to family members who lost loved ones in two local long-term care facilities.

 

Left: Courtesy of Kate Glaser/Sarah Bridgeman Photography; Right: Courtesy of Kate Glaser

Similar to older adults and people with underlying medical conditions, pregnant people face a greater risk for severe illness from COVID-19 than the general public. This week on “The Toll,” WBFO’s Kyle Mackie reports the story of an Amherst woman who contracted COVID-19 during her last week of pregnancy earlier this summer.


The Toll: Western New York Stories of Loss & Survival in a Pandemic
Clockwise from top left: Courtesy of Dianne Britain; Stevo Johnson/Volney Powell, Powerful Creations Photography; Darren Lisicki; and Michael O’Connor

Fever. Cough. Shortness of breath. The most common symptoms of the novel coronavirus are well-known by now. But in the third episode of WBFO’s “The Toll,” survivors of COVID-19 describe the more complicated physical and psychological impacts of battling the virus.


Left: Courtesy of Tina Grato; Right: Courtesy of Kelly Frothingham

In the second story of WBFO’s new series, “The Toll: Western New York Stories of Loss & Survival in a Pandemic,” two daughters remember the veteran parents they lost earlier this year to COVID-19.

Left: Luke Copping Photography; Right: Courtesy of Pompea Disanto-Owens

In the first story of WBFO’s new series, “The Toll: Western New York Stories of Loss & Survival in a Pandemic,” reporter Kyle Mackie sheds light on one unusually strong relationship forged at the hospital bedside of a COVID-19 patient.