courtesy Rosie Davis Mary Castro (left) and Rosie Davis
Rosie Davis remembers first growing worried about her mother in March, as cases of a mysterious new virus spread through the United States — slowly, at first, and then faster and faster and faster.
Davis’ mom, Mary Castro, was then living in a nursing home in Dallas. Long-term care facilities like Castro’s had become troubling sites of outbreaks in the emerging novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Castro — a former nurse who put herself through school while working graveyard shifts at a hospital and raising her kids as a single mom — was at increased risk.
Her health had begun to decline in recent years. Still, she remained alert and curious, always attentive during visits with her daughter, who made the 10-minute trip every day.
By the time coronavirus cases were confirmed around Dallas in March, Castro’s nursing home went into a complete lockdown. Davis, a 44-year-old aesthetician, continued visiting her mother but they were now separated by a glass window.
When Davis arrived on Mother’s Day, in May, she says she immediately noticed “something was really wrong” with Castro.
“She was not very alert. We had to tap on the window to get her attention. She couldn’t hold her own gift,” Davis says. “That was a big red flag for me.”
“At this time, there was still no mask mandate in Dallas County,” Davis says of her mom. “She had a mask on but it was just looped around her earlobes, not covering her mouth or nose.”
Davis says she asked the nursing home, where there had been prior coronavirus cases, to examine her mom. But her pleas were unsuccessful. Eventually, she took it upon herself to call 911.
An ambulance arrived, and Davis said goodbye. The memory still makes her emotional.
“The last image I have of my mom was her being lifted into the back of an ambulance,” she tells PEOPLE.
Castro did not die quickly, but she did die alone.
Davis called multiple times each day that Castro was hospitalized. By May 16, a nurse said her mom was alert enough to speak on the phone.
“It was a breath of fresh air to hear her voice … She said, ‘Have the restrictions been lifted yet? I’m really tired and I don’t want to be in here anymore,’ ” Davis says. “And I told her, ‘I’m so sorry that I can’t be with you.’ “
“I believe she knew she was going to die,” Davis says now. “She told me, ‘I just want you to know I love you. I’m very proud of you and you’ve been the best daughter to me.’ Her last words to me were, ‘When you get to heaven, we’re going to look for each other.’ “
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courtesy Rosie Davis Mary Castro (center, behind glass) at her Dallas nursing home
The coronavirus killed her the next
Pressure to create a coronavirus vaccine is increasing by the day, but for a safe vaccine to enter the market, it takes time.
An open letter from the frontrunner COVID-19 vaccine producer published Friday ends any expectations a vaccine might be available before Election Day.
Pfizer Inc. CEO Albert Bourla’s letter says the earliest the company could apply for authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine is the third week of November.
The CEO of the other frontrunner, Moderna’s Stéphane Bancel , said at a biotechnology conference on Sept. 30 that it would not have enough safety data to apply for Food and Drug Administration authorization of its vaccine until Nov. 25.
The other two COVID-19 vaccine candidates in final stage clinical trials in the United States, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, are both on hold as possible adverse events are investigated.
That means there is now no chance any COVID-19 vaccine could be approved before the Presidential election on Nov. 3.
The news lays to rest a concern brewing in the public health community for months that a vaccine might be rushed through to provide a political win for President Donald Trump. He has said multiple times over the past six months he anticipated a COVID-19 vaccine would be available prior to the election.
That stance shifted on Oct. 6 when the White House embraced guidelines published by the Food and Drug Administration that likely would slow approval of a coronavirus vaccine by requiring drug makers to conduct trials for two months before requesting approval.
After that shift, the only way a vaccine could have come about prior to Nov. 3 would have been if absolutely everything went right in the Pfizer vaccine trials, which are the furthest along.
The timing would have been tight. The Pfizer vaccine requires two doses given 28 days apart and it launched its U.S. Phase 3 trials on July 27. The second shots would have begun on Aug. 24. Two months of follow-up after that second shot would be Oct. 23.
Bourla’s letter makes clear it will take longer than that. Based on the company’s current trial enrollment and dosing pace, “we estimate we will reach this milestone in the third week of November,” he wrote.
The company is “operating at the speed of science,” with safety as its No. 1 priority, he said.
Even then, there will be several important safety and oversight steps after the company applies for an Emergency Use Authorization for its vaccine.
“All the data contained in our U.S. application would be reviewed not only by the FDA’s own scientists but also by an external panel of independent experts at a publicly held meeting convened by the agency,” he said.
The news is an important step in earning back the public’s trust and confidence in the vaccine evaluation and approval process, said Dr. Kelly Moore, associate director of Immunization Education, Immunization Action Coalition.
According to a poll from Informa Pharma Intelligence, a business intelligence provider, and research