Family Loses Home To Wildfire–Than All Seven Contract COVID

Burned structures are shown next to a truck, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020, after a wildfire destroyed homes and outbuildings in Graham, Wash., overnight south of Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Jessica and Mathew Graham and their five children were removed from their home in Malden, Washington, after a Labor Day wildfire. They immediately left and stayed with family, where another unthinkable thing happened–they all contracted COVID-19.

Mathew Graham dismissed the cough at first, thinking it was an effect of the smoke that had engulfed his home. After re-settling in hotels, the family started feeling sick, describing it as flu-like symptoms. They tested for COVID-19 and all the results said the same thing … positive. This included their 12-year-old Constantine, 10-year-old Claudia, 7-year-old twins Zoe and Adele, and their 5-year-old son Darius.

“A cold with intense exhaustion. I’m having a hard time staying out of bed for more than a few minutes,” is how Mathew described the feeling. “The worst part is having a 5-year-old who doesn’t feel sick but is cooped up in a small room.”

To make matters worse, the Grahams received a text message that their home was a total loss from the fire. They had lived there for five years and now it was gone, and they had no home to rest and recover from COVID. If there was one shred of good news, the family dog survived a fire that Whitman County reports destroyed 8% of the homes.

“It just felt like a bad dream at first,” Jessica said. She is the focus of the family now,

suffering from pneumonia in both lungs but she hasn’t been hospitalized yet. The isolation of living in a hotel has already proven to have an effect on the kids, as they found their 7-year-old daughter, Zoe, curled up in the corner of their hotel room, between the couch and the wall, according to her father.

In addition, the family may have spread COVID to Jessica’s parents, and also a family of nine that had them over for dinner. “It’s horrible realizing that they reached out to us and have been so welcoming to us, and we spread it (COVID) to them,” Jessica said. “At this point, we don’t have any plans. All that we have are questions that lead to more questions, and no answers anywhere to be found,” Mathew added.


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