NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Wearing pink and white T-shirts adorned with precious snapshots of 17-year-old Schwanda Corprew, loved ones filed into Metropolitan Funeral Services on Wednesday to say goodbye to Sherrell Corprew’s youngest of seven daughters.
Their family pastor is the Rev. Geoffrey Guns, who lovingly led the procession into the chapel where a few dozen people had gathered to say goodbye to Schwanda, or Shay-Shay, as loved ones called her.
Guns, of Second Calvary Baptist Church, has walked alongside the family from the beginning of the tragedy.
“It’s been devastating for her family the kids, the cousins, neighbors, mother, and grandmother. It’s been devastating,” Guns said.
On the evening of July 30, Schwanda was found dead in her home after a brief illness. Days later, the cause of death was revealed: complications from COVID-19.
Family members thought her complaints of a headache and congestion were nothing more than a cold. Schwanda was scheduled to get a coronavirus vaccination on Aug. 3, just three days after she died.
In January, Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters recorded more than 1,200 COVID-19 cases, the numbers dropped to 125 in June, but in July, cases were up to 228 and as of August 10, there were 368 cases at CHKD.
Since Schwanda’s death, most of her family members have been vaccinated and Guns even hosted a vaccination clinic during the wake held in honor of Schwanda. It’s an unconventional setting to attack a virus that has disproportionally sickened or killed people of color.
“I encouraged the operators of funeral homes when they sit down with families that they share that during the wake or immediately after the funeral service, or even during their repasses, that they can have a vaccination clinic set up and scheduled,” Guns said.
Vaccine hesitancy remains high among minorities. Guns and others on the front lines say the vaccine rate in the underserved communities of Norfolk is about 10% lower than the general population.
“I think every little bit helps. Whatever you can do to get people vaccinated, you have to do that. You have to be where people are — and people go to funerals, unfortunately,” Guns said.