FARGO — The latest numbers on infections and deaths in North Dakota from COVID-19 continue to be staggering. There’s a person behind each number. People who normally would be going about their daily lives. Instead, they have left behind many grieving families, whose lives have been shattered. While these families are hurting, many of them are angry. They’re upset that numerous fellow citizens wouldn’t wear masks or social distance, and that the response to the coronavirus from the federal and state governments has been weak and slow.

Lloyd and LaVerne Ptacek from Cogswell, N.D., were living in a nursing home in Oakes, N.D.

"Dad was a hard worker, who loved his family. He always helped other people when they were in a bind,” said their son, Ardell Ptacek. “Mom was very loving and very kind.”

 LaVerne and Lloyd Ptacek from Cogswell, N.D. Submitted photo
LaVerne and Lloyd Ptacek from Cogswell, N.D. Submitted photo

A few weeks ago, Lloyd, 93, developed a high fever and had trouble breathing. He had COVID-19. The next day, LaVerne, 92, tested positive. Lloyd died a week later. On the day of Lloyd’s funeral, LaVerne passed away.

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“How has it been to have two parents die within the same week? Numbing and exhausting,” Ardell said. “We turned our focus on mom, and when she passed on the morning of dad’s funeral, we all felt like we had been hit by a train … These deaths absolutely did not need to happen. They were healthy. Our government did not protect our people. Our politicians allowed this pandemic to get out of control.”

Lillian Dvorak, 87, died from COVID-19 in a nursing home in Dickinson, N.D.

“She was very kind and hard working. She worried about everyone, but herself,” said her brother, Cornelius Kooren, of Fargo. “She should be alive today.”

Lillian Dvorak, 87, of Dickinson, N.D. Submitted photo
Lillian Dvorak, 87, of Dickinson, N.D. Submitted photo

Cornelius was unable to attend the funeral because of COVID.

“From the federal government on down there hasn’t been a serious response as to how dangerous this virus is,” he said. “Why is the act of wearing a mask such a political statement? That comes from the White House.”

For Becky Nordquist of Walcott, N.D., life will never be the same. That’s because despite being vigilant, 25 members of her family have been infected with the coronavirus. Sister-in-law, Laurie, 55, died from it. Son, Jacob, 31, and daughter, Ashlee, 37, were in the hospital for several weeks, on ventilators, and almost died. Both of them are unable to work now, as they struggle to breathe and walk. On top of that, her husband, Jeff, who was afraid to go to the hospital because of COVID, died from a massive heart attack.

Becky Nordquist of Walcott, N.D. Submitted photo
Becky Nordquist of Walcott, N.D. Submitted photo

“I’ve cried more in the last six months than I’ve cried in my entire life,” Becky said. “Our leaders have made huge mistakes and not been strong enough, which has allowed this virus to go unchecked … I’m afraid to even be in North Dakota. People who think the virus isn’t real need to wake up.”

There are far too many families around here like the Ptaceks, Dvoraks and Nordquists. We must do better to protect them.

Shaw is a former WDAY TV reporter and former KVRR TV news director. Email jimshawtv@gmail.com