A Toll of Coronavirus in New York Is a New Group of Orphans

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The last time Roberto Tobias Jr. talked to his father he put on a face mask and shield, gloves and a gown. Then the 17-year-old entered the room in Mount Sinai Queens where his father, Roberto Sr., 72, lay dying of Covid-19 complications. He kissed him on the forehead and told him it was OK to let go. He promised to do his best; he’d find a way to finish high school.

A month later, he got a phone call while at a park with friends. His mother, 61, had just died. She, too, had gotten the coronavirus—likely at home, where she used up vacation days from her nursing job at a Harlem hospital to look after her husband when he first fell ill.

Mr. Tobias Jr. hung up the phone, trying his best to act normal, but his friends knew the worst had happened.

“I was emptied at that moment,” he said.

The coronavirus pandemic has ravaged families, and it’s difficult to figure out exactly how many children have lost a caregiver or have been orphaned, but experts say the scale of the losses is likely staggering.


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