After death of their loved one, family pushes for support of COVID-19 at-home caregivers


HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — It’s happening all over the country: More people are staying home while fighting the coronavirus, and sadly are also dying at home.

One week ago, 44-year old Robert Allen Fentress, a BAE shipyard contract engineer, died at his Norfolk home.

His mother watched from afar as others cared for her son, and is now pleading with the medical community to offer more help to patients and caregivers who are fighting the invisible enemy at home — not from a hospital bed.

Family members believe Allen contracted the coronavirus last month at BAE Systems Norfolk Ship Repair, where officials confirm at least two other infections and a handful of suspected cases.

“I actually did not know he had COVID-19 until he passed away; I did not know he was that sick,” said his mother, Sandra Fentress, who is a former shipyard worker herself.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says most victims can recover at home, but families need to know when to dial 911.

The CDC says get emergency help immediately if a loved one has trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse, or bluish lips or face.

The CDC advises loved ones to consult their medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning.

While the Fentress family is pleading the medical community to give more support for at-home COVID-19 patients, the family says the community has already turned out for them in a different way.

The Fentress family shared their concerns on 10 On Your Side and the community responded. They now have disinfectants and protective gear for those who cared for Robert Allen Fentress. Those loved ones are in good shape and under self-quarantine.

“I want to thank everybody who as contributed and responded,” said Allen’s sister Toshiba Fentres.

Meanwhile, BAE is under pressure as some contract employees have refused to report for duty because of what they call unsafe conditions.

The yard has responded by calling on employees to maintain safe distancing. it has also has started screening workers for fever.

The Fentress family is grateful for the support they are receiving from the community and they hope lessons will be learned following Allen’s death.

“We so much appreciate these individuals who are taking a stand in his honor who wish hey could have done it before it got this point because they love him so much,” said his sister Toshiba.

Funeral service plans are pending and could happen sometime in May, the family said. A livestream of the service will be available at

For more information from the CDC on how to care for someone sick with COVID-19, click here.

Clarification: An original version of this article said the funeral would be April 26, 2020 for Robert Fentress. The family now says plans are pending and will happen likely in May.

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