For one of the last stories I wrote for Westword, which laid me off last week, I spoke to a coworker of a Walmart cashier who died of COVID-19 last month. Sandy Kunz was 72 years old and on supplemental oxygen because of a lung condition, but she had no choice but to keep going to work as the pandemic worsened; her husband, Gus, was at home, injured and out of a job, and the couple needed to pay the bills. Both ended up contracting the virus. Gus died on April 18. Sandy died two days later. On April 23, local health officials shut down the Walmart where Sandy worked after confirming one other death and at least six more positive cases linked to the store.
I still cannot think of this story without feeling a visceral, physical sensation of anger — a fist-clenching, pulse-quickening, breath-shortening anger that I have to consciously pull myself back from. Sandy and Gus Kunz died needlessly. They died because our cruel, corrupt and incompetent federal government failed to intervene early enough to contain the virus, downplayed its spread out of vanity and stupidity, and left us unequipped to deal with the consequences. They died because we live in a country that makes a sick 72-year-old woman work to survive. There are tens of thousands of others just like them, and by the time this is over, there will be hundreds of thousands.