Daughter, son share heartbreaking story of father's loss as COVID deaths skyrocket

ByChad Pradelli and Cheryl Mettendorf via WPVI logo
Friday, November 20, 2020
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Joe Spina of Manchester, Ocean County is counted among those gone too soon. He died on March 31 when the pandemic was still in its infancy.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The COVID-19 pandemic has hit a regrettable milestone. More than 250,000 Americans have now died from the virus.

To understand the magnitude, it's a loss that would fill the Lincoln Financial Field more than three and a half times.

Joe Spina of Manchester, Ocean County is counted among those gone too soon. He died on March 31 when the pandemic was still in its infancy.

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"We made it to the hospital to see him before they went in, so at least we got to kiss him and that was the last time we saw him," said his daughter, Lori Maimome.

Spina's children have still not come to terms with his death. Yes, he was elderly but not your average 83-year-old. His son said he was vibrant and even training for a 25-mile bike ride. The family suspects he contracted the virus from two bowling partners. They'd too died from COVID.

"He just went so fast right in front of my face," said Joe Spina Jr.

Spina lived near Toms River-- part of a 55 and older community. In the region, Ocean County has had more deaths per capita than any other county.

"It's just a sin that this is happening to so many families. It's like reliving a nightmare every day," said Maimome.

A deeper dive into local municipalities within the counties show Middletown Township in Delaware County has been hit hardest in our viewing area.

Data showed roughly 1 in 92 people have died there.

We found more than half of the deaths were early in the pandemic and occurred at the county nursing home, Fair Acres.

Mike Donahue owns a funeral home in Delaware County. He said the onslaught of funerals doubled in April and May.

"It just, it was just didn't end. It was 7-8-9 deaths a day for two months," said Donahue.

Medical advancements, nursing home protocols, and a better understanding of COVID have stemmed the tide of deaths.

Still, a second wave has doctors and the state worried. And where the mortality number ends, is anyone's guess.

"I think that things will improve as we go through 2021, but I think we're in for a very challenging time over the next three months or more," said Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine.

Spina's daughter said it is painful that the family still hasn't been able to honor his legacy with friends and family.

She hopes sharing his story will help with the tremendous grief they feel.

"No one should ever have to go through something like this. No one. It's just the hardest thing is to watch your loved one decline without comforting them," said Maimome.

SEE ALSO: Pennsylvania lays out 3-phase COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan, reports over 7K new cases