Minneapolis family remembers loved one who lost battle with COVID-19 as MDH releases new info about deaths statewide

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The spread of COVID-19 has changed almost every aspect of daily life in Minnesota. It has been especially heartbreaking for family members of those who have lost their battle with the disease.

Seventy-nine people have now died statewide, including 92 year old Elie Farhat.

“So many of the traditions and rituals we use to manage death and grief are really not available to us,” said his granddaughter Elianne Farhat. “We come from a very tight knit Lebanese immigrant community, anchored in St. Mary’s church in northeast Minneapolis and our community rallies around big life events.”

She said usually after a death, their community would come together and visit, sharing food and memories.

“And really get through the pain of losing someone you love deeply,” said Farhat. “It’s been very strange to think about and understand, how do we go through this process, this grieving without our traditions and rituals?”

Her grandfather passed away last Wednesday after battling the illness for about two weeks.

His family, however, had been concerned about his health for a month. The 92-year-old was in an assisted living facility.

“His roommate got COVID,” said Farhat. “They immediately isolated him and then from there [my grandfather] got sick, was tested, had COVID and moved to HCMC and passed away shortly after moving to the hospital.”

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She told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS their family was able to gather over FaceTime to pray with him on his final night.

“In some ways it’s really ironic that he passed at a time when we couldn’t be physically near him and it’s also really beautiful to reflect on what he has left behind, a vibrant connected family said Farhat.

She told us he came to America in the 1990’s. Orphaned early in his life, he worked hard to help children and make sure people had a sense of community and family.

He was active in his northeast Minneapolis community.

“He loved playing backgammon outside with his friends and playing card games with the men at our church,” she said. “He had this great laugh, just filled up a room and it was always great to hear,”

The Minnesota Department of Health released new information on Tuesday about the people who have died from COVID-19 in the state.

While those who’ve lost their battle with the disease range in age between 56 to 100 years old, the median age is 87 years old. Fifty-seven out of the 79 cases were associated with long term care.

According to MDH, 98.5% of those who died had preexisting or underlying health conditions.

“So we’re seeing our deaths in individuals who are older, with underlying health conditions, who are in congregate care settings,” said Kris Ehresmann, the infectious disease director for MDH. “That is where we’re putting our energies in terms of trying to be proactive in reaching out to hose facilities and offering assistance.”

Farhat told us her grandfather had dementia.

“His mind was fading but his body was actually pretty healthy for a 92-year-old,” she said. “He was pretty active, he went on long walks so he was pretty physically healthy.”

She said the doctors and nurses were wonderful during his hospital stay, allowing family members to call and video chat with him. Farhat told us she wants people to know that if their loved one is sick, there are still ways to connect.

And as each day comes, she wants to remind people, “At the center of everything we’re doing are people. We are all making sacrifices and we are all experiencing extreme hardship on many fronts, from our health to our economic wellbeing, because we believe in the value of people. We believe in each doing our part to keep us healthy.

“So as time goes on and lots of numbers get thrown out for lots of reasons, just remember that there are really people at the center of this experiencing a lot of pain but also people at the center of this who are doing the right thing for all of us.”