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Coronavirus —

. –– Betty and Curtis Tarpley were together for most of their lives: They went to the same high school in Illinois, met and fell in love in California as adults, then married and raised two children.

On June 18, after 53 years of marriage, the two died of coronaviruses just an hour apart in a Texas hospital, and they spent their last moments together holding hands, her son told CNN.

Tim Tarpley explained that her 80-year-old mother had been ill for a few days when he took her to Harris Health Texas Fort Worth Methodist Hospital and discovered that she had covid-19.

She was admitted on June 9 and her 79-year-old father was admitted on June 11.

Preparing goodbye

Tarpley, 52, explained that his father was in the intensive care unit and appeared to be doing well. The nurses were even able to take Curtis to Betty’s unit, so they could spend time together.

Betty’s condition worsened, and Tarpley indicated that she called him and his sister, Tricia, and told them that “she was ready to go.”

It took Tarpley time to assimilate his decision.

“I just yelled ‘No!’ And I thought, ‘I have a lot of other things to do in this life that I want to show you and I’m not ready,’ ”he said.

Hospital staff allowed Tarpley and his sister to visit their mother twice, he added.

During the first visit she was heavily medicated and didn’t really know they were there.

Then she was alert and telling jokes when they returned the next day, but Tarpley noted that she was clearly uncomfortable and that doctors said she didn’t have much time.

Tarpley reported that he called his father to inform him of his mother’s condition and told her how much she loved him.

Soon after receiving the update from her children, Curtis’ oxygen levels plummeted.

“I really feel like he liked to fight because he was supposed to, and once he found out that she wasn’t going to make it, then he agreed to take him home,” Tarpley said. “I think he fought because he thought the team needed him, but he was also tired and suffering,” he added.

It happened so fast that Tarpley and his sister were unable to see their father again.

“The correct thing was to gather them”

Tarpley indicated that a nurse he had never spoken with arranged things for his mom and dad to be together. Both had decided to receive comfort care, which involved giving them large doses of medication to ease their pain.

“I felt the right thing was to get them together,” said Blake Throne, one of the nurses in the intensive care unit where Curtis was. “I started asking if it was possible and then I started moving to try to do it,” he added.

Throne said this required a team effort, but they managed to transfer Betty to the intensive care unit so that she and her husband could be next door.

When another nurse told Curtis that Betty was there, he tried to look at her. But Throne said he was very weak.

“His eyes widened and his eyebrows shot up,” Throne recalled. “He knew what we were saying. I knew she was there. “

Throne said he then put Betty’s hand on Curtis’s arm.

Communicate without words

“Honestly, I think they were so disabled that all they could do was talk to their souls or something, a special language not spoken,” said Tarpley. “Obviously they knew each other well enough to be able to communicate without words.”

Betty died after about 20 minutes, and Curtis died about 45 minutes later, Throne said.

Tarpley said he was grateful for the empathy and friendliness of the hospital staff.

“That is what makes them the best,” he said.

Tarpley explained that he does not know how his parents were infected with covid-19, but said he should have been quarantined because he, too, was infected. She assured that her mother and father had been largely isolated since March, but that she visited them every other day to see how they were doing.

That time together further strengthened their relationship, which, according to Tarpley, gave him “another level of peace.”

He said family and friends look forward to celebrating Betty and Curtis’ life next year.

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More fireworks in Americans hands for July 4 raises risks

ATLANTA (AP) — For many Americans, the Fourth of July will be more intimate this year. It also could be riskier.

Saturday will be unlike any Independence Day in recent memory. From Atlanta to San Diego, hundreds of fireworks shows have been canceled as officials restrict large gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic, especially as infections surge across the U.S.

With fewer professional celebrations, many Americans are bound to shoot off fireworks in backyards and at block parties. And they already are: Sales have been booming. Some public safety officials say consumer fireworks in more hands means greater danger of injuries and wildfires in parts of the country experiencing dry, scorching weather.

“The general public is buying more than ever before,” said Steve Houser, president of the National Fireworks Association.

While it’s not clear exactly what is driving people to shops, some sellers think fireworks are a diversion for people who have been stuck at home during the pandemic.

“We’re seeing new customers … who usually don’t come to the fireworks tents,” said Robert Fletcher of Desert Sky Fireworks, which has locations across Arizona.

Cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco have received more complaints of illegal fireworks this summer than in previous years. While most states allow at least some types of consumer fireworks, many cities prohibit them, even non-explosive sparklers. But they acknowledge it is difficult to stop people from buying them just outside city limits where they’re legal.

In Arizona, which has battled wildfires for weeks, thousands of people have signed an online petition calling for Gov. Doug Ducey to ban fireworks this summer.

Delanie Thompson, 28, said she started the petition after seeing a neighbor’s house engulfed in flames last week during a wildfire in Phoenix. She said she and her boyfriend were forced to evacuate their home for 30 hours.

Thompson said she got angry when she later saw a roadside tent selling fireworks in a nearby town.

The Fourth of July is “about our independence,” she said. “Not just about fireworks.”

Authorities in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale seized nearly 4,000 pounds of banned fireworks this week after getting a tip about an illegal sales operation at a house.

Fireworks can be a big danger as many parts of the American West struggle with drought, turning vegetation into tinder for flames.

“It definitely compounds the risk for starting wildfires,” Jessica Gardetto, a spokeswoman for the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, said of fireworks.

The center is predicting more wildfires than usual in July across a swath of the U.S. West. And fires started by retail fireworks tend to burn near homes, said Gardetto, who has heard them explode every day for the last week in her neighborhood.

Fires are just one cause for concern. Some doctors fear injuries will increase this year as more people experiment with fireworks at home.

Dr. Erin Miller, a hand surgeon at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, said she amputated 42 fingers due to fireworks injuries last year while she was on call during the Fourth of July.

She has simple advice for revelers: Do not use larger fireworks like mortars and cherry bombs.

“Do not mix alcohol or any other substances if you’re choosing to use fireworks,” she added.

But not everyone is as alarmed by the increased interest in consumer fireworks.

“It’s business as usual for us,” said Chris James, a spokesman for the Glendale Fire Department.

The agency will have extra units on standby like usual for the holiday, he said. He recommends having water and a fire extinguisher nearby.

“It’s basic common sense we try to preach,” James said.

Fire departments and many sellers also urge people to have a sober “designated shooter,” said Houser of the National Fireworks Association.

Some in the industry believe monthslong lockdowns during the pandemic explain the increased interest in blowing off steam with fireworks.

“We’ve all been cooped up at home. We all have a lot of added stresses,” said James Fuller, a spokesman for TNT Fireworks. “I think a lot of folks want to feel good again.”

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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