Stephanie Landaverde did everything right. The 24-year-old bartender took all the precautions she could as the pandemic began its spread through Massachusetts. She wore a mask, kept to a small circle of family members, and after restaurants reopened, decided not to return to work in order to protect her vulnerable parents and grandparents, who were all immunocompromised.
But her 81-year-old grandfather, Juan Ciprian, was less cautious. He was a Trump supporter and refused to wear a mask, parroting the president’s statements about the virus not being a concern.
He died last week of COVID-19. His family received his ashes the day after Trump announced his diagnosis.
“It was horrible,” she said. “We found out that Trump tested positive the day before my grandfather was cremated. It brought some anger into our hearts.”
At the outset of the pandemic, Landaverde’s tight-knit Guatemalan family in Framingham came up with a plan to stay safe. Landaverde would not return to work so as to avoid close contact with others, and her brother and uncle, who worked in manufacturing and at UPS, respectively, would keep away from vulnerable family members while they continued their essential jobs.
“I chose not to work in order to keep them safe, the thought of losing any of them seemed — it just wasn’t an option for me. We’re very family-oriented, and are traditional Latinos in that sense. My parents and grandparents require a lot of care, and I wanted to be available to them at any moment in case they did need me,” she said. “Between my parents and my aunt and me, we were trying to stay in a bubble. We were all very rigorous about it.”
Her grandfather didn’t share their concerns. “He was the only one that wasn’t complying. He was hearing all these conspiracy theories, and saying Trump said this or that,” she said. "He didn’t believe it was a real thing.”
Ciprian was a strong man who played the tuba in a marching band in Guatemala, and was a music teacher for much of his life. He wrote music well into old age, took walks every day, and didn’t have any ailments, said his daughter Reina Jeter. “He had a lot to live for and he was healthy.”
But he began showing symptoms of COVID-19 on Sept. 20, and was hospitalized on the 23rd. He died six days later. His wife also contracted the disease, and after being hospitalized was transferred to a rehabilitation home where she remains.
Landaverde’s grandparents live with her parents, and soon they too were diagnosed with COVID-19. Landaverde was beside herself: Her father has cancer, and her mother is a diabetic, and both were admitted to Framingham Union Hospital as their symptoms progressed.
With her grandfather’s health deteriorating, Landaverde’s mother began to decline as well. After learning of her father’s death, and without being able to say goodbye, her vitals dropped, and she was admitted to the ICU. “They had to mourn him while fighting COVID,” she said.
Eventually, she said, both her parents began to improve. Her father was released from the hospital and her mother was upgraded from the ICU, though she remains hospitalized.
Landaverde sent a message to the Globe from her mother, Maria Landaverde, who said hospital workers are “putting their lives in danger to save us.”
“We, all the people who have been affected by COVID-19, lost their jobs, got sick, or even died from it, deserve to be heard,” Maria Landaverde said. “My heart is with President Trump and wish him the best but the country needs him to stop playing politics and remember we are people.”
All told, seven of Stephanie Landaverde’s family members have contracted the virus in the past two weeks, including an aunt and her two children. They are now recovering at home. The family suspects that her grandfather introduced the virus into their midst, as he was the first to show symptoms.
So when Landaverde’s family learned of the president’s diagnosis soon after losing Ciprian, it only devastated them further. She said while the family is still mourning and still recovering, they’re also angry and feeling worried about how Trump will use his own diagnosis to suit his message.
“We don’t wish this upon anyone, nobody deserves to go through this, to feel so helpless,” she said. She wished the president a speedy recovery, but said she hopes that contracting the virus will teach him how dangerous it is.
“It only takes one little mistake right? And that’s all it took for my grandfather,” she said.
On Monday afternoon, Trump did little to show that he’d changed his mind: “Don’t be afraid of Covid,” he tweeted. “Don’t let it dominate your life.”
Landaverde’s grandfather wasn’t there to hear it.