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Dallas woman presents resolution to memorialize COVID-19 victims and survivors

Kaitlyn Urenda-Culpepper lost her mother in July due to COVID-19. She has turned her grief into advocacy in hopes others will not experience the same loss.
Credit: Kaitlyn Urenda

TEXAS, USA — The first coronavirus case in Texas was detected on March 4, 2020 in Fort Bend,  days later the World Health Organization would declare COVID-19 a pandemic. 

Nearly a year later, millions have been impacted, and in February 2021 the United States surpassed 500,000 deaths.

Kaitlyn Urenda-Culpepper lost her mother, Genevieve Martinez, due COVID-19 in July. She along with members of Marked by COVID, presented resolutions to their local, state and federal officials to proclaim March 1 as "COVID-19 Victims and Survivors Memorial Day." 

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson's office told WFAA that a proclamation will be issued on March 1, marking it COVID-19 Victims and Survivors Memorial Day.

“COVID-19 has taken the lives of far too many Texans and the impact of each loss is devastating to our state and all their loved ones,” U.S. Rep. Colin Allred (D-Dallas) said. “Kaitlyn’s ability to turn her pain into purpose is inspiring and a reminder we must all do our part to save lives by stopping the spread of this virus.”

The bill was introduced on Feb. 25 in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Greg Stanton of Arizona. 

The 29-year-old is one of over 7,000 members from across the country of Marked by COVID, a Facebook page turned into a non-profit advocacy group. The organization hosts advocacy trainings, meet and greets and has developed a “Five R” policy platform being presented to elected officials at the federal, state and local level. 

Marked by COVID is in communication with federal government officials regarding memorization, retribution and relief.

“What Marked by COVID aims to due first and foremost is to acknowledge that we have lost a loved one to COVID, due to the failure and mismanagement of this pandemic at a federal level and at a state level and you know we continue to fail,” said Urenda-Culpepper.

Credit: Kaitlyn Urenda
Genevive Martinez was 62 years old when she contracted COVID-19 in El Paso.

Martinez was a school nurse in El Paso when she became ill on July 8. The 62-year-old had decades of experience in healthcare working in the emergency room, Intensive Care Unit, endoscopy and pain management. Her daughter said she was a force in the hospitals. 

Martinez was taking proper protocol to protect herself, but Urenda-Culpepper believes one interaction with an individual unmasked may have led to Martinez contracting the disease. 

“She was older and needed some help with groceries and somebody, I think they opened the door for her, and they didn’t have a mask,” said Urenda-Culpepper.

Martinez told her daughter after testing positive, "I should have known to just signal them like it's OK because you don't have a mask on." 

Governor Greg Abbott issued Executive Order GA-29 on July 2, 2020 requiring Texans to wear a face covering in public spaces in counties with 20 or more COVID-19 cases. Gov. Abbott said during his press conference in July violators would be given a warning and subsequent violations could be given a citation not to exceed $250.

RELATED: Here are the cities and counties in D-FW that require face masks at businesses

Although the mandate has been in place for months, some argue that there is not much enforcement to it. 

Gov. Abbott stated in July that there would not be another stay-at-home order but there would be restrictions on capacity for restaurants and bars would not be permitted to reopen depending on the number of cases in the county.

RELATED: Gov. Greg Abbott weighing end to mask order, other statewide coronavirus rules, says announcement coming 'pretty soon'

Urenda-Culpepper said a lack of unity and messaging across party lines and states continue to contribute to the number of COVID cases and deaths.

“If there is not a constant communication to people from our leaders, we're never going to get to where we're trying to go, and it's going to take a lot longer to get there,” said Urenda-Culpepper. 

Marked by COVID will host a virtual vigil on March 1 to memorialize those who have died.

“Above everything else we are people first." Urenda-Culpepper said. “I think we are really forgetting that in Texas.”