• 72°

Former Nederland councilman talks COVID death of family member

Emmett Hollier announced on social media Sunday the death of his brother-in-law, Wayne Wiltz, due to complications related to COVID-19.

The death has rocked his family, the former Nederland councilman told Port Arthur Newsmedia on Monday.

“At first, I fought the vaccination for well over a year,” Hollier said. “These last couple of months I have known more people with it. I have known more people to die within that last few months that I finally made the decision that I was going to go ahead and get vaccinated. I got my first shot already and I go this week to get my second shot.”

Hollier maintains getting vaccinated is a personal decision but asks those in doubt to consider what is known.

“Don’t look at the political evidence, because that is the wrong thing to look at,” he said. “Look at the data from the hospitals or the data from the doctors and use that as your guide versus worrying about the news and what’s political.”

Hollier said the news of his brother-in-law’s passing slammed him in the face and reiterated how real the impacts of COVID are on the community.

Hollier said his friend, Jennifer Doornbos, also passed away as a result of complications related to COVID.

“Sometimes when we don’t see it up close, we’re not that into it,” he said. “Now that it hit us that close, it has a lot of awareness in our family. Unfortunately, it took that to maybe wake up some folks.”

It’s a similar story for Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick, who had one word to describe the state of affairs with local hospitals treating COVID-infected patients — “terrible.”

“I had conversations with CHRISTUS Sunday evening; they were worse then they were back during the height of the pandemic in January,” Branick said. “Baptist (Hospitals of Southeast Texas) is the same. The numbers are looking bad.”

Angie Hebert, vice president of communications for the Medical Center of Southeast Texas, said the Port Arthur hospital made changes to its visitation practice last week due to the facility’s growing COVID patient treatment count.

“We scaled back the visitor policy to allow one adult support person per patient,” she said. “We have other stipulations regarding COVID visitation, labor and delivery, etc. We plan to maintain those (practices) until our census dictates otherwise.”

Masks are required at the hospital.

The Medical Center of Southeast Texas hopes to share percentages of COVID patients who are being treated in relation to vaccinated versus unvaccinated as soon as clearance is given.

At CHRISTUS Southeast Texas Health System facilities, officials are no longer allowing visitors due to COVID concerns. Exceptions are for one support person for labor & delivery patients and end-of-life situations.

On Sunday, CHRISTUS said there were 77 COVID patients receiving care in the main hospital. Of those, only four had been vaccinated.

VACCINATIONS

Branick stressed to Port Arthur Newsmedia, by state decree, his office cannot mandate mask wearing or vaccinations.

He said individual businesses are within their rights to require employees or customers to wear masks with some medical exceptions.

“I am certainly not advocating forcible vaccinations of anybody, but the vaccine has proved to be about 90 percent effective if you look at the numbers with those showing up at the hospital,” Branick said.

Hollier said COVID is one of those things community members know is out there. It’s not that people don’t pay attention to it, he said, they just put it off until it touches really close to home.

He hopes those in the community consider the relevant information when deciding if they get vaccinated.

In the meantime, he will miss everything his brother-in-law provided for his family.

“Wayne was the type of guy that was rough around the edges. If a person didn’t know him, walked up to him and he said certain things, they would think, ‘oh, my god,’” Hollier recalled, joking Wayne “kind of looked like Santa Clause.”

“He has helped everyone is my sister’s family in some way or another. Whether it was me personally, allowing me early on to live in their house for a year with my son. He helped my sister with my mom and dad. My mom died of cancer, my dad died of Parkinson’s. He was there every moment by her side. He was just a gentle giant, a big man with a big heart.

“I’m going to miss his humor. You knew where you stood with Wayne. He didn’t color coat anything. He didn’t hold grudges or anything like that. He was a big-hearted person, and I am going to miss him taking care of my sister.”

Hollier said he remembers telling his girlfriend a year ago that he didn’t really know anyone with COVID. Now, he can put pictures and faces to the names of people getting it and, in worst cases, dying from it.

“It brings it to light real quick and makes you starting thinking if you are doing the right thing,” he said.