The number of people who have died in the United States after contracting the novel coronavirus continues to climb.
We’re learning who some of them were, what they did and what they were passionate about.
Those lost to the coronavirus include a former New York fire marshal who sprang into action on 9/11, a mother to six who was battling breast cancer, and four members of a New Jersey family.
Here are some of their stories.
A champion of the labor movement
Ruben Burks, the first African-American secretary-treasurer of the United Auto Workers, died due to coronavirus on April 6, his grandson confirmed to CNN. He was 86.
While working in a General Motors Factory in Michigan, Burks joined a local union and worked his way up to the UAW’s second-highest position, the union said. He spent more than 60 years championing the work of women and people of color in the labor movement.
Even after he retired, Burks organized retirees to protest water conditions in Flint, longtime friend and fellow union leader Steve Dawes told CNN.
“At the end of the day, he was truly a giving man,” said his grandson Tony Burks, who was raised by his grandfather. “His real focus was on community, and making sure everyone had an opportunity to be their best self.”
Before he died, Burks’ local union chapter renamed its hall after him, and the regional UAW women’s council recognized him with a line of scholarships in his name.
Known for his constant thumbs-up, he encouraged his large family to face difficult situations with positivity and enthusiasm. Now his family is applying that same attitude to planning his funeral arrangements, Tony Burks said.
“It’s hard right now with regards to the timing, but we are working together to putting together a celebration,” Tony Burks said. “In living up with his true mission, no matter what you’re faced with, do the best with it.”
A state representative
Louisiana state Rep. Reggie Bagala died after a battle with coronavirus, his son said April 9.
Bagala, 54, was a Republican freshman and represented the Jefferson as well as Lafourche parishes. He was elected to office last year.
“He was a profoundly honest and decent man, who loved unceasingly. His family, his culture, his LSU Tigers, his friends, and his home here on Bayou Lafourche,” his son, Tristan Paul Begala, said.
A day before his father’s death, he posted on Facebook that his fever was “higher and his ventilator is still maxed out.”
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards described him as a successful businessman, devoted family man and active volunteer.
“Rep. Bagala spent his life making his community and south Louisiana a better place to live for everyone,” the governor said.
A priest in Brooklyn
The Rev. Jorge Ortiz-Garay, a Catholic priest in Brooklyn, died on March 27 at Wyckoff Hospital Medical Center in the New York borough from complications related to coronavirus. The 49-year-old is believed to be the first Catholic priest in the United States to die due to Covid-19, the Brooklyn diocese said.
“This is a sad day and a tremendous loss for the Diocese of Brooklyn,” said Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of the Diocese of Brooklyn. “Father Jorge was a great priest, beloved by the Mexican people and a tireless worker for all of the faithful in Brooklyn and Queens.”
Born in Mexico City, he was ordained as a priest in 2004 and arrived in Brooklyn in 2009. He was the pastor of St. Brigid’s Church in Wyckoff Heights and was the coordinator of the diocese’s ministry to Mexican immigrants.
Known as Father Jorge, he also coordinated Brooklyn Diocese’s Our Lady of Guadalupe Feast Day traditions, including a Mass attended by thousands of pilgrims followed by a torch-lit pilgrimage through the streets of Brooklyn and Queens.
He walked nearly block of New York
William Helmreich, a prominent sociologist perhaps best known for walking every block of New York, died the morning of March 28 of coronavirus. He was 74.
A professor at City College of New York, Helmreich wrote nearly 20 books, including “The New York Nobody Knows: Walking 6,000 Miles in the City,” which chronicled his walks through New York talking to and learning about its residents.
After he tested positive for coronavirus, Helmreich’s symptoms appeared to be improving when he died suddenly Saturday.
“We weren’t ready for this at all. We didn’t say goodbye. We didn’t think we had to say goodbye,” said his son, Jeffrey Helmreich.
His family held a virtual funeral, with few guests. They were not able to sit shiva – or mourn together at home – as is Jewish tradition. Helmreich’s widow and one of his sons attended, standing 6 feet apart.
A humble and pioneering neurosurgeon
Dr. James T. Goodrich, the pioneering neurosurgeon who allowed CNN inside a remarkable operation to separate conjoined twins Jadon and Anias McDonald, died March 30 of complications related to Covid-19, according to the hospital where he worked.
The Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center released a statement calling Goodrich a pioneer in the field of helping children with complex neurological conditions, having developed a multi-stage approach for separating craniopagus twins such as the McDonald twins.
But the hospital also said Goodrich was a humble, caring man who “did not crave the limelight and was beloved by his colleagues and staff.” At the holidays, he baked cookies and hand-delivered them to nurses.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent, met Goodrich when Gupta was a neurosurgery resident. He wrote a tribute in which he remembered Goodrich as a preeminent pediatric brain surgeon who dropped out of college at one point to become a “surfer dude.”
“Dr. Goodrich was an incredible human being, and the world is a little less bright today without him,” Gupta wrote. “While we knew the losses would come, they are no less painful when they do.”
He saved families from the Holocaust
Rabbi Avraham Hakohen “Romi” Cohn survived the Holocaust and saved dozens of families from the genocide.
He died of complications from coronavirus at age 91, his family said March 26.
A native of Pressburg, Czechoslovakia, now Slovakia, Cohn was a 16-year-old member of the underground resistance when he helped save 56 families from the Holocaust, according to Yeshiva World News and a biography of the rabbi posted on New York Rep. Max Rose’s congressional website in January. His mother and four siblings died in a concentration camp.
Cohn left Europe in 1950, first living in Canada, but he later settled in New York, becoming a developer on Staten Island, where he ran a company that built 3,500 homes, according to the bio and his relatives.
Cohn was trained in the ritual of circumcision – a mohel – and performed thousands of circumcisions for which he refused payment, the bio said. He was considered an authority on the subject. He died at 91.
“There was no ego, no aura of greatness with him. He made you feel like a million dollars,” said Mendy Mirocznik, president of the Council of Jewish Organizations of Staten Island.
A New York City nurse
Kious Jordan Kelly was a “beloved member” of the nursing staff at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City, the hospital said.
Kelly was an assistant nurse manager at the hospital, according to his sister, Marya Sherron. Kelly, who also suffered from asthma, tested positive for the virus on March 18 and died less than a week later, she said.
The coronavirus crisis has “turned our frontline professionals into true American heroes,” Mt. Sinai said in a statement Tuesday. “Today, we lost another hero - a compassionate colleague, friend and selfless caregiver.”
“His legacy is so powerful, he was amazing,” Sherron told CNN. “Anyone that knew him, his smile, everything about him, spoke for itself.”
“I found out he was sick and in the ICU at the same time,” Sherron said. “He told me that he’s OK and not to tell our parents.” Kelly texted his sister, saying he couldn’t talk because he wasn’t able to breathe.
“I love you, going back to sleep,” Kelly texted. It was the last text message his sister received from him.
“I want to honor him today and I want to fight for his unit and staff, and all healthcare workers,” Sherron said. “I want our health care workers to have what they need.”
A Detroit policeman
Capt. Jonathan Parnell was the leader of the homicide unit in the Detroit Police Department.
Parnell was a “true leader” who never complained, said Detroit Police Chief James Craig, who announced Parnell’s death on March 25. He just wanted to make sure his men and women would put forth their very best, Craig said.
Parnell was so well-liked that at one point in his career his teammates begged for him to remain in their department despite a promotion, Craig said. His previous assignments were in the commercial auto theft section, narcotics, the special response team, and the 10th Precinct.
“Jonathan was an extraordinary officer, a leader who contributed more to this department and the community than I could ever say,” Craig said. “He cherished his family and the department members he worked alongside, and we all loved him back.”
A high school principal
Dez-Ann Romain walked into the Brooklyn Democracy Academy each day committed to uplifting her students.
The 36-year-old educator in New York City died from coronavirus complications, the city’s principals’ union said March 23.
She led a transfer school for students who were challenged by traditional high schools.
“Too many in our society have written off the young scholars under her stewardship, but where others saw problems, she saw promise and potential,” Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said in a statement to CNN.
Romain worked with Adams’ office to create a “first-of-its-kind” urban farming program at the high school where students grew fresh produce for people in need.
A World War II veteran
George Possas, a World War II veteran who was proud of his country, his church and his family, died on March 17 in Long Island, his daughter says.
After serving in the military, Possas, 93, returned home to eventually start a family and become an electrician. He had been running an electrical contracting business with his son before his death.
But, most importantly, he was loved by many people.
“He was everyone’s papou, it’s Greek for grandfather. Everyone said he was like a father or grandfather to them,” his daughter Denise Bocchicchio told CNN.
After Possas contracted the virus, his health quickly declined, and he was hospitalized. He died without family being present as they said they were not allowed on the hospital’s floor and some of them were battling the virus.
A community leader
Detroit community leader Marlowe Stoudamire, 43, died March 24 after contracting the virus, his former employer, Henry Ford Health System, told CNN.
“An amazing man, husband, friend and one of the best dads that I have ever met lost his life to Covid-19 today,” Bob Riney, the president of health care operations and chief operating officer for Henry Ford Health System, said.
Stoudamire would “light up any room with his ideas and strategic thinking,” Riney said in a statement.
“He was tireless in his love and care for others. My wife and I are heartbroken for this devastating loss. We will continue the fight of this terrible pandemic in his honor,” a release from Henry Ford Health System says.
Stoudamire, a member of Omega Psi Phi, is survived by his wife, Valencia, and two young children, the release says.
A Tony award-winning playwright
Terrence McNally, an acclaimed playwright, died from coronavirus complications, his publicist Matt Polk said.
McNally, 81, was a four-time Tony award winner known for his musicals “Ragtime,” “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” and numerous other musicals, plays as well as film and television screenplays.
He died March 24 at a hospital in Sarasota, Florida. He was a lung cancer survivor with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Polk said.
Last year, McNally received a Tony Award for lifetime achievement in theater. Over his career, McNally was responsible for 25 Broadway productions, including “Anastasia,” “The Ritz,” and “The Full Monty.”
A retired New York fire marshal
John Knox, 84, was a retired fire marshal for the Fire Department of New York, but he served his country and his city in myriad other ways – he was a member of the New York Police Department for two years and served in the US Marine Corps during the Korean War.
And yet, after a career of service, Knox had more to give. He had been retired for two years on September 11, 2001, but he sprang into action that day to help his country and his community.
“He took his vehicle and all the gear that he still had remaining from his time with the FDNY and drove down to The Battery and made the trek from there all the way to Ground Zero,” his son, Zachary Knox, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on March 18. “And he was there for several weeks afterward.”
Knox was still going to the gym a few weeks before his mid-March death. “He was a very vibrant 84-year-old,” his son said. “I think people decades younger than him had trouble keeping up.”
Zachary wants his father to be remembered as someone who was “always very committed to being … just a man full of integrity.”
“He lived and died by his word,” Zachary said. “That’s the way he always was, and people loved him for it.”
Knox is survived by his wife, four children and six grandchildren.
A brother of Minnesota lieutenant governor
Ron Golden, a “tough-as-nails Marine who was a big teddy bear on the inside,” died after being diagnosed with the virus, according to his sister Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan.
“Almost exactly two months after we buried our dad, my brother Ron passed away on Saturday (March 21). To many, he’ll be a statistic: Tennessee’s second Covid-related death. But to me, I’ll remember a loving, older brother, uncle, father, and husband,” Flanagan said in an Instagram post.
Just weeks before he was diagnosed with coronavirus, Golden was diagnosed with cancer, which compromised his immune system. He was put into a medically induced coma and placed on a ventilator before he died of the virus, Flanagan said.
“THIS is why we must #StayHome,” she said. “If you feel fine, that’s great. But please consider the possibility that you’re carrying the virus and don’t know it, and then you walk past the next Ron, my big brother, in public.”
US Sen. Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota, a former presidential candidate, said on Twitter her “heart goes out to my good friend Minnesota Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan and her family. The virus is affecting so many Americans and together we must work on getting the medical supplies and treatments to those who are sick.”
Klobuchar’s husband has tested positive for the virus.
A juvenile in California
A minor who lived in Lancaster, California, may be the first juvenile to have died from the novel coronavirus in the US.
Los Angeles County health officials announced the death on March 24 but have said the case was “complex” and there might be an “alternate explanation” for the death.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told CNN the person who died was a teenager.
A 91-year-old who lived a ‘life of intellectual fascination’
When Bill Pike, 91, was admitted to the hospital a few weeks before he died, his family thought he had pneumonia, his son Daniel Pike told CNN. A week after he was admitted, the Connecticut man was sedated and on a ventilator.
“Nobody, nobody thought he had this,” Daniel Pike said.
Shortly before he died on March 18, Bill Pike received his last rites over the phone, with his wife and three children listening in from quarantine.
“It was like a tapestry or quilt of our affections for him,” his wife, Cathie Pike, told CNN.
Born in Fort Collins, Colorado, Bill Pike was accepted into the US Naval Academy and served in the Korean War. After returning home, he attended Harvard Business School and went on to have a 30-year career at J.P. Morgan & Co., where he served as chairman of credit policy.
Pike was an “old-school gentleman” with “incredible character,” said the Rev. Peter Walsh of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in New Canaan, Connecticut, where the Pikes were members. He treated everyone the same, Walsh said, from the person who painted his house to the Connecticut governor, with whom he was friendly.
“We see joy in his 91 full years,” Cathie Pike said.
Four members of one family
One New Jersey family is mourning the loss of not one, but four beloved family members – all of them lost to the coronavirus within a week.
“It’s absolutely surreal,” Elizabeth Fusco told CNN’s Chris Cuomo. “They were the roots of our lives … It’s like the second we start to grieve about one, the phone rings and there’s another person gone, taken from us forever.”
Among the family members lost was Elizabeth’s oldest sister, Rita Fusco-Jackson. She died on March 13, according to The New York Times.
Days later, on March 18, Elizabeth’s brother Carmine Fusco died, just hours before their mother and the family matriarch, 73-year-old Grace Fusco, died, too.
And another brother, Vincent Fusco Jr., passed away on March 19.
Elizabeth was on the phone Wednesday for her mother’s final moments. While on a call with the hospital, she heard her mother coding in the background, she said, and doctors’ frantic attempts to save her.
“I listened to those doctors and those machines code my mother on the phone when she passed,” Elizabeth said. “I’ll never get over that.”
Grace Fusco had 11 children and 27 grandchildren.
“This is a family that always cared and was there for others,” according to a GoFundMe page set up for the family.
Three other relatives are hospitalized in New Jersey, and 19 other family members have been tested and are waiting on the results, according to Roseann Paradiso Fodera, Grace’s cousin and an attorney representing the family. Children, parents and grandchildren have been quarantined.
“This is an unbearable tragedy for the family,” Paradiso Fodera said.
A single mother and breast cancer survivor
Sundee Rutter, a 42-year-old mother of six, died on March 16 in Everett, Washington, after she was infected with coronavirus, her older sister Shawnna Olsen told CNN.
“My sister was amazing,” Olsen said. “She was the first to lend a helping hand to anyone.”
Rutter had been battling breast cancer and was in remission when she fell ill, Olsen said. She was taken to Providence Hospital in Everett, where she died.
Her room was closed to visitors to prevent spread of the virus. Her six children, ages 13 to 24, said their last words to her using a walkie-talkie that was placed at her bedside.
“She fought valiantly until she could not fight any more,” a GoFundMe page set up on behalf of the family says.
Olsen called her baby sister a “hero” who always put her children – ages 13 to 24 – first. Rutter had been a single mother since the death of her husband in 2012, Olsen said.
Per his “mother’s wishes,” Rutter’s oldest son, Tyree, will become the legal guardian of his younger siblings, Olsen told CNN.
A retired New York Times reporter and editor
Alan Finder, a longtime reporter and editor at The New York Times, died March 24, the newspaper’s executive editor Dean Baquet said.
Finder, 72, had retired but started working last month on the Times’ international desk, filling in for a few days, a spokesperson for the newspaper said.
“Alan Finder, a longtime and beloved colleague at The New York Times, died this morning after testing positive for Covid-19 a few weeks ago,” Baquet said in a statement.
“He was one of Metro’s stars in the 1980s and 1990s, a big writer in a big, hugely competitive era for New York City news,” Baquet added. “Alan was also a generous and patient colleague. He touched many of our lives at The Times and will be missed.”
An NBC News staffer
Larry Edgeworth, an NBC employee, died of complications due to the coronavirus, NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack told staff in a memo on March 20.
Edgeworth recently worked in the equipment room, Lack said, but before that, he spent most of his 25 years at NBC News as an audio technician.
“Many of you were fortunate enough to work with Larry over the years,” Lack said, “so you know that he was the guy you wanted by your side no matter where you were.”
That sentiment was echoed by Roxanne Garcia, CNN’s senior director of newsgathering, who worked with Edgeworth for 17 years at NBC.
“He was a really big man with a really big heart,” Garcia said, adding, “He had a great laugh and a great smile.”
Edgeworth spent countless months covering stories far from home, in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, Garcia said.
“He always made you feel like there was someone there who cared about you,” she said, “and there was someone who cared about the story we were telling.”
Edgeworth leaves behind a wife and two sons, Lack’s memo said.
A former magician
Richard Curren, a father of two, died March 17, just a few days after falling ill.
He had been living at an assisted living facility in Florida with his wife of more than five decades.
“Richard was ebullient. He was loving,” his wife, Sheila Curren, told CNN affiliate WPLG. “What do you say in a moment like that? He was perfect.”
Their son, Erik Curren, told CNN that the couple met in Chicago. They raised their family there before retiring to Florida about a decade ago.
Shortly before Erik was born, Curren decided he wanted to be a professional magician. Sheila was his assistant. Curren would later work in sales.
He was also passionate about water sports and competitive swimming.
His family said he was hospitalized with respiratory issues considered routine, but he died this week. Doctors told the family his death was due to complications from coronavirus.
“I think the family is in shock because he always pulled through,” the Curren’s daughter, Tracie Curren, told WPLG.
As a magician, Curren loved sharing magic tricks with children.
“No matter how many joint replacement surgeries he endured, he still couldn’t resist a chance to get down on the carpet to play with a toddler,” his son wrote on Facebook.
Correction: This story has been updated with the correct spelling of Erik Curren's name. Curren's father's work history has also been corrected
CNN’s Mirna Alsharif, Jason Hanna, Madeline Holcombe, Faith Karimi, Amanda Lee, Pierre Meilhan, Paul P. Murphy, Frank Pallotta, Anna Sturla, Rebekah Riess, Ray Sanchez, Kristina Sgueglia, Evan Simko-Bednarski, Hollie Silverman, Jaide Timm-Garcia and Douglas Wood contributed to this report.