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A sad Robert Paris, councillor for Pleasantville, San Fernando, looks at a photograph of his uncle Winford Atherley who lived in from Brooklyn New York. Atherley died from the COVID-19 virus.

After waking up yesterday morning to the tragic news of the passing of his uncle Winford Atherley in New York to COVID-19, a local government representative is appealing to Trinidadians to take this disease seriously.

“There are still people who are taking this pandemic lightly. This is very serious,” lamented Robert Paris, the councillor for Pleasantville.

Paris said his other uncle Gilbert Legendre, who lives in the United States, is also infected with the disease and is battling for his life.

“I don’t know why people in Trinidad not taking this seriously. We still have people who are not listening to the government and health officials,” said Paris in a telephone interview.

He said Atherley, 72, migrated to Brooklyn several years ago and recently retired from the New York Transit Authority where he worked as a technician. He said Atherley’s wife works as a healthcare provider so they were staying in separate areas of their house.

It is believed that his wife was exposed to the disease after she sat next to a church member who subsequently died from COVID-19. Atherley, his nephew said, picked her up from church that day and they had dinner together.

“My other aunt was calling the house and could not get him. She then called his wife and when his wife checked she found him unconscious on the floor.” He was rushed to the hospital and hooked up to a ventilator.

“It makes no sense that you can lose your life to a cold. I am very close to him and all my other uncles and aunts. Uncle Winford was the strong one in the family.

“The hardest part about this is that you will never be able to pay respect to your family members. The last time you saw them would be the last time you would ever see them again. There are mass burials going on across there and they are getting rid of the bodies as soon as someone dies from this.”

He last spoke to his uncle Legendre, a head mechanic at the New York Transit Authority, on Messenger on Monday.

“He was at home sitting on the edge of the bed. He had on a mask. He couldn’t breathe. I asked him how he going and he said, ‘I fighting.’

“I said ‘just make sure you keep fighting.’ They told me that if he does not improve they will have to take him to the hospital.”

The councillor advised people to reach out and keep in contact with their relatives.

Paris said he is now very worried about his son Kristian, 19, who is studying in New York.

“He is scared. I try to talk to him all the time.”

Appealing to fellow citizens, Paris said, “Listen to what the government is saying, people are dying.”

Several Trinidadians living in the United States have succumbed to the disease.

Statistics show that in New York more than 87,700 people have been infected with COVID-19, including over 5,000 deaths with over 9,000 recoveries.