OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Thursday in Oklahoma, 2300 people tested positive for COVID-19.
The Delta variant is more deadly and more contagious than previous strains.
The Davis family lives in Kansas now, but they have deep roots in Oklahoma.
The fourth wave of COVID-19 crept into Kansas in June.
“I was taking 2000 mg of vitamin C a day,” said Terese Davis. “I didn’t think I was going to get it.”
Some thought the pandemic was winding down, even as doctors warned about the deadly, dangerous Delta variant tightening its grip.
“None of us knew what would happen,” said Meghan Davis.
“I really didn’t think it was going to get us, each one by one,” said Stephen Davis.
Across the plains and the southern U.S., vaccination rates are well below the national average.
In Oklahoma, about 40 percent of residents are fully vaccinated.
In Kansas, where there are fewer people, about 45 percent have full protection against COVID-19.
The Davis family had four generations to celebrate Father’s Day.
They had no idea an uninvited virus would ravage the family tree.
Fourteen family members went to lunch. Only two were vaccinated.
In the days following that Father’s Day lunch, eleven people tested positive for COVID-19 including nine who attended the lunch.
Twin brothers, Andrew and Taylor were not at the lunch on Father’s Day, but they were exposed at home. They live with their mother, Deanna. The twins tested positive as well.
Eleven positive tests total.
Five family members were spared, including both of the vaccinated adults.
Steve Davis, 39, was the first to test positive, five days after his symptoms began.
He was feeling fatigued and dehydrated Father’s Day weekend.
“I’m thinking I don’t have COVID. I’m sure I don’t have COVID. I’m thinking I’m young. I’ve got a good immune system. I’m good to go,” Davis said.
After Steve tested positive, his wife Deanna, her 15-year-old twins Andrew and Taylor and Steve’s 17-year-old son, Kameron, all tested positive.
“I just wish there was more I could have done to help my dad,” Kameron said.
Davis’ parents, Stephen and Terese, were diagnosed next.
“They say this Delta strain is 275 percent faster to attack your system,” said Stephen Davis, who always intended to get the vaccine, eventually.
“My parents had been telling us, every time we (saw) them. (They were) telling us get the shot, get the shot,” said Terese.
Stephen, 62, and Terese, 54, were hesitant about the vaccine. They planned to get the shot this summer. COVID-19 got them first.
“I was just making sure no one was going to turn into a zombie or anything,” Terese joked. “We wanted to give it six months.”
Stephen and Terese were both hospitalized with COVID-19 complications.
“I couldn’t help anybody else,” Stephen said through tears. “I couldn’t do anything for anyone else. I had to focus on myself to get through it, and that’s not me.”
Stephen was in the hospital for nine days, three in intensive care.
“The ones who are surviving it have had the shot, whereas the ones who are passing away, haven’t had the shot,” Stephen said. “They’re saying it’s almost 100 percent.”
Stephen and Terese’s daughter, Meghan Davis, was at that Father’s Day lunch also, with her boyfriend, Josh Afsharpour, and their baby boys – Leighton, 2, and Bentley, who is seven months old. All four tested positive.
The delta variant is infecting young children at a much higher rate than previous strains.
“I was really scared because there’s not much we could do to help (the boys) or help anybody,” Meghan said.
Meanwhile, Steve and his wife Deanna decided not to go to the hospital.
They were struggling to beat COVID-19 at home.
“It got pretty bad to where I couldn’t do anything,” Steve remembered.
He didn’t have the strength to take care of his wife.
Steve didn’t realize, in his own suffering, Deanna was dying of COVID-19.
Ten days after diagnosis, Steve finally began to see some improvement with his symptoms. Deanna was still struggling to breathe.
“I told her, I said, ‘If you’re not doing any better by tomorrow, you’re going to the hospital. You didn’t want to go to the hospital, but you’re going to the hospital,'” Steve remembers.
That night, he found his Deanna unconscious in their bed.
The 911 dispatcher told Steve he would have to do CPR on his wife.
Steve needed to move Deanna from the bed to the floor, but he didn’t have the strength to move her.
He asked his 17-year-old son to help.
The 911 dispatcher instructed the father and son how to do chest compressions.
“I couldn’t do it by myself because I had COVID and I was pretty weak,” Davis said. “I told my son, Kameron, ‘You’re going to have to come over here and do CPR.'”
In those final moments, Steve Davis tried to barter with God.
“I told him, ‘Take my life to let her live.'”
Deanna Davis was 45 years old.
She died on the 4th of July, two weeks after Father’s Day.
Carl Jones, 82, and Mary Jameson, 82, were the only two in the family who had the COVID-19 vaccine.
They believe the shot protected them from the coronavirus that moved through the entire family.
“We were there at the party,” Mary remembered. “I hugged little Stephen and Deanna. We sat right across from them. I really believe in the shot.”
Most of the family is now convinced.
They say they will get the jab as soon as they are eligible.
“A lot of people are saying it’s political or it’s not real. It’s definitely real,” said Stephen Davis.
The toll of this pandemic weighs heavy still.
For the whole family, but especially for Steve.
Yet, he is unconvinced about the protection of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“I’m skeptical about it, myself. At this point, I feel like I’m backed into a corner to where I don’t know if I should or shouldn’t.”
In the end, the choice will be his.