Special Report

Shutdown: The Coronavirus

Losing a loved one to the coronavirus

Adelaide Pieropan died from complications of Covid-19 on April 11. She was 74. Photo courtesy of Gabriella Laura Menegatto

Gabriella Laura Menegatto was quarantined in her home in Puerto Rico when her cousin gave her the news: “Mom, after a long fight, lost the battle.” After 12 days in intensive care, Adelaide Pieropan, Menegatto’s aunt, died of Covid-19 in a hospital in Italy. Pieropan was 74. 

Menegatto, a retired nurse, knew how fatal the disease caused by the novel coronavirus can be, but the message she received on April 11 at 7:51 a.m. still came as a shock. What pains her the most is the thought of her aunt dying alone, away from family and surrounded by strangers. 

“She went to the hospital, and her daughter never saw her again,” Menegatto, 64, said in Spanish. “Dying alone in that environment, with people dressed all in white… It’s difficult, it’s absurd. It hurts.”

Pieropan started exhibiting symptoms around March 10, a few days after she left her house in the province of Vicenza to do some shopping. It started with a fever and what seemed like a cold. A doctor visited her home and prescribed antibiotics, but she didn’t get better.

On March 25, the doctor referred her to the hospital and she was tested for Covid-19. The result came back positive. Pieropan was admitted to San Bortolo Hospital, in Vicenza, that same day, and she was placed in an isolated area, where only patients and staff were allowed. 

“My friend told me the area was shielded,” said Menegatto, who contacted an old friend who works at the hospital to let her know her aunt was there. “If you die there, your family will never see you again.”

On March 31, Pieropan was transferred to the intensive care unit and intubated. Menegatto’s cousin told her Pieropan’s phone was taken away when she was transferred to the ICU. A doctor called every day to give updates, but the outlook was not good. Menegatto prayed with her cousin for Pieropan’s recovery, hoping the strong woman could defeat the virus.

But despite doctors’ efforts, Pieropan passed away almost two weeks later. 

“I cried for two days,” Menegatto said. “Everything happened so fast.”

Vicenza yesterday confirmed 160 coronavirus-related deaths since the beginning of the crisis. Italy has reported the third-highest number of Covid-19 in the world at 183,957 and the second-highest death toll at 24,648, only behind the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University. Italy saw the lowest daily number in coronavirus deaths in a week on Sunday. On Monday, the amount of people identified as infected with the virus dropped for the first time since the country’s outbreak started. 

More than 4,700 miles lie between San Juan, Puerto Rico’s capital, and Vicenza, in the northeastern Veneto region of Italy. The last time Menegatto, who moved to the island 36 years ago, traveled that distance and saw her aunt was in October. 

Menegatto described her aunt as a smart, kind and generous woman. She was an active member in her community, and neighbors knew her as a caring person who participated in local festivals. She used to enjoy going out into the woods to collect fungi as her pastime. 

Pieropan was a beautician by profession, but her passion was embroidery. She taught the art and took courses in her free time to perfect her process. She even traveled three hours on a train to Bologna to take a half-hour class to master a specific stitch. Menegatto recalled Pieropan used to read a crochet and knitting magazine called Mani Di Fata (Fairy Hands) since she was a teenager. 

“She always loved to crochet,” Menegatto said. “The magazine arrived at the house every month.”

Pieropan was 14 years old when her older sister, Menegatto’s mother, brought her to live with her to help raise Menegatto and her sister. She spoiled her niece, giving her money to go to the movie theater and cooking whatever she craved. 

“My mom was the serious one, the one that scolds,” Menegatto said. “My aunt was a person who smiled, who didn’t have to talk much because she told you everything with her eyes.”

Menegatto’s mother, who is 84 years old, traveled to Puerto Rico on March 5 and hasn’t been able to return to Italy because the airline has cancelled flights from the island to the European country. 

“Her instinct pushed her to come here, and she was saved,” Menegatto said. “She can’t believe what’s happening.”

On the day her aunt died, Menegatto’s mother told her to call Pieropan’s daughter: “I feel that my sister died.”

She was right.



Other Stories in Special Report: Shutdown: The Coronavirus

The Spirit of Little Haiti

Savannah Daniels October 14, 2020

Small business owners hope for future relief

Courtney Guarino October 2, 2020

Brooklyn Book Festival held virtually

Chuyan Jiang September 28, 2020

NYC Restaurant owners worry about maintaining business during winter 

Isabel Beer September 27, 2020

The pandemic is causing mental health struggles for many Latinos

Paola Michelle Ortiz September 24, 2020

Politically divided family can agree on one thing, rallies are bad during a pandemic

Michelle Diaz September 23, 2020

New Yorkers are vulnerable to mental issues due to pandemic

Sughnen Yongo-Okochi September 23, 2020

Healthcare professionals struggle with Trump’s decisions during pandemic

Tori Luecking September 23, 2020

Some Americans Say “Not So Fast” on Operation Warp Speed

James Pothen September 23, 2020

Trump voters unfazed by morality of Trump’s Covid response

Norah Hogan September 22, 2020

Trump rallies continue, despite the rising Covid-19 death toll

Isabel Beer September 22, 2020

Latinos weigh in on President Trump’s management of the pandemic

Paola Michelle Ortiz September 21, 2020

Fast track vaccine causes fear

Kaity Assaf September 21, 2020

It’s business as usual at McSorley’s Old Ale House

Tori Luecking September 20, 2020

Trump defiance to hold indoor rallies amidst COVID-19 sparks polarized responses 

Courtney Guarino September 20, 2020

NYC Cafes and restaurants try and survive the pandemic

Isabel Beer September 19, 2020

A typical afternoon at Shade Bar NYC

Kaity Assaf September 19, 2020

West Village staple, Caffe Reggio, remains open for outdoor dining in the wake of coronavirus restrictions 

Norah Hogan September 19, 2020

Fort Greene’s Dino adds outdoor dining to keep business flowing

Courtney Guarino September 19, 2020

COVID-19 hampers Fashion Week for photographers

Daniel Karel September 18, 2020

On the heels of revelation that Trump downplayed the covid threat, voters question rallies resuming

Sughnen Yongo-Okochi September 16, 2020

Overburdened mothers in Pakistan are relieved as schools reopens

Quratulain Tejani September 13, 2020

Students from different parts of the world struggle as schools reopen during a pandemic

Chuyan Jiang September 12, 2020

Special needs students face learning obstacles during Covid-19

Courtney Guarino September 12, 2020

Back to school – COVID-19 style 

Isabel Beer September 12, 2020

The new normal for school life is abnormal in Michigan

Sughnen Yongo-Okochi September 11, 2020

California School District Parents and Teachers Clash About Return to School

Norah Hogan September 10, 2020

A tribute to the mask pioneers

Bohao Liu July 11, 2020

Air pollution in China rebounds to pre-COVID level

Hannah Zhang July 11, 2020

ICE takes aim at international students

Maria Abreu July 10, 2020

Chinese students trapped by new ICE policy

Zishu Sherry Qin July 10, 2020

New ICE policy adds more turmoil to the lives of international students

Shiyu Xu July 10, 2020

Lawsuits follow ICE policy barring international students who are taking online classes

Joanna Lin Su July 10, 2020

Economists say the US needs a bold, generous fiscal response. Congress is likely to disappoint. 

Ahmed Mohamed July 9, 2020

Overseas Singaporeans have pandemic obstacles to voting

Yifan Yu July 9, 2020

Proximity sensors and hygiene stations are the “new normal”

Joanna Lin Su July 9, 2020

 Tour ticket vendors miss the hustle and bustle of Times Square

Narkwor Kwabla July 8, 2020

Dengue outbreak could be a greater threat than covid in Singapore

Yifan Yu July 8, 2020

Corporate bankruptcy: ‘A story that’s not going away’

Gaurav Sharma July 7, 2020

Beijing reopens as the second wave of coronavirus dies down

Hannah Zhang July 6, 2020

Masks or no masks?

Bohao Liu July 5, 2020

Varsity Flu

Madeline Gunderson July 3, 2020

Rail travel in China is popular during the pandemic and filled with safety measures

Bohao Liu July 3, 2020

Brazilian international student caught in US travel ban.

Marina Guimaraes July 3, 2020

MTA faces crisis following COVID shutdown

Daniel Girma July 2, 2020

Easter Market goes back to its roots

Kyla Milberger July 2, 2020

China’s Airline Industry Aims to Lure Back Passengers with Unlimited Flight Pass

Zishu Sherry Qin July 1, 2020

US corporate debt soars during coronavirus outbreak

Gaurav Sharma June 30, 2020

In Singapore, gay pride goes online

Yifan Yu June 29, 2020

The Hair Room reopens

Shiyu Xu June 29, 2020