Gadsden family that lost 3 to COVID-19 says disregard for health precautions is ‘heartbreaking’

Local News

GADSDEN, Ala. (WIAT) — After witnessing a surge in COVID-19 cases, a Gadsden family that lost three loved ones to COVID-19 is urging people to take health precautions seriously.

In April, the Woods, Posey, and Porter families were infected with the virus. Phacethia Posey, her father Billy Ray Woods, and her cousin, Michael Woods all died from the virus.

“Take it serious. I don’t want anyone to have to experience what we’ve gone through and what we are still going through physically, mentally, and emotionally,” said Kyra Porter, who lost her sister Phacethia and her father, Billy Ray.

The most difficult part for the family is that many of them did not get to say goodbye. Several were sick with the virus at the same time.

“Me, mom, my dad and CeeCee, we were all in the hospital together on the same floor,” said Kyra Porter’s sister, Johnjalene Woods.

The family said they contracted the virus despite taking health precautions to heart and limiting travel. Family members believe some loved ones got sick as they cared for others.

“We have the type of family if one is sick, we [are] all going to see about them. And if it [causes] them to be sick, then oh well,” said Kyra Porter, who also tested positive for the virus after caring for sick family members.

“From the headaches to the stomach, to the fever, to the chills, to the nausea. If you name it, I had it,” said Kyra Porter.

While Kyra exhibited many symptoms, her sister Johnjalene did not have symptoms at first.
She later developed a low grade fever and a cough.

Sisters Phacethia, Johnjalene, and Kyra (Courtesy of family)

“I coughed so much to where my right side was swollen,” said Johnjalene Woods.
Kyra and Johnjalene’s mother, Barbara Woods, also tested positive and was admitted to the hospital too.

[RELATED: ICU bed shortages in central Alabama hospitals could impact medical procedures]

“I thanked God that I wasn’t as severe as my children, because I have underlying conditions too, so I know God just kept me—especially for my age,” said Barbara Woods, who is 71-years-old.

Despite the loss of her husband and her daughter, Barbara Woods is thankful that she and other family members were spared.

“God allowed some of us to stay here. Some of my family members were able to stay here, because you know what, it could have been all of us that would have been placed six feet under,” said Barbara Woods.

The family said it’s difficult to see the increase in cases around Alabama and the country. It’s even more disheartening when they see neighbors and friends not taking health precautions seriously.

“One person can infect everybody, and the thought of them not even thinking of themselves of their families or their friends. It is heartbreaking,” said Kyra Porter.

The family hopes that others will hear their story and make changes to routines for the safety of others.

[RELATED: UAB doctor gives Alabama ‘F’ for failure to follow medical guidelines during COVID-19 pandemic]

“Losing two family members out of the same house is devastating. I am still trying to wake up out of this dream that I won’t ever wake up, because it is real,” said Barbara Woods.

Ever since the pandemic, the family limits trips out of the house. They use delivery services and curbside pick-up options whenever possible. Barbara Woods believes small sacrifices should be made for the health of others.

“The heart of man has got to change before this world is healed,” said Barbara Woods.

Phacethia Posey

Phacethia Posey (Courtesy of family)

The 51-year-old mother and grandmother was known to all as CeeCee. She was a member of her church’s praise band and always looked for a reason to celebrate.

“CeeCee always found good in everybody,” said Kyra Porter.

Kyra, Phacethia, and her sister Johnjalene were all very close.

“All of us would talk every day. All day. From the time we wake up, until the time we go to bed, and in between,” Kyra said.

Johnjalene said her sister loved her family, her husband, and her kids.

“She always wanted the best for everybody, she had a big heart,” Johnjalene said.
Phacethia was the first family member to die from the virus. She died April 13th, leaving behind her husband and two children, and three grandchildren. While Phacethia loved all of her family members, her sisters said her grandchildren were her pride and joy. One of them delivered the devastating news to Phacethia’s mother, Barabara Woods.

“I just couldn’t cry but a little bit, it’s like God just dried my tears away and I said, ‘God thank you for giving her to me for 51 years,'” said Barbara Woods.

Billy Ray Woods

Billy Ray and Barbara Woods (Courtesy of family)

Just five days after Phacehtia Posey’s death, her father, Billy Ray Woods, lost his battle with COVID-19. Known to many as ‘Bam Bam,’ the 70-year-old married Barbara Woods on her birthday in 1970. 

“We’ve been best friends ever since,” said Barbara Woods.

This December, the couple would have celebrated their 50th anniversary. She recalls how weak he was after contracting the virus. Barbara had to get her daughter Johnjalene to take him to the hospital.

“I said, ‘I hate to bother you hun’, but I said, ‘Take him to the emergency room, and she took him, and that was the last time I saw him,'” said Barbara Woods.

Billy Ray was a deacon at his church and loved to cook for the community. He was always willing to lend a hand.

“He would take anybody in to help them. We had so many people living with us coming up as kids,” said Kyra Porter.

Kyra said her father was very close with his nephew, Michael Woods, who was the third family member to die from COVID-19.

Michael Woods

Michael Woods (Courtesy of family)

The 48-year-old man was known to many as “Sandman” in the Gadsden area, where he too was active in the church and community.

“He was a dancer. He was always seeing about the elderly in the community. He would take them plates. Just had a tremendous heart,” said Kyra Porter.

Loved ones said Woods was often the funny man in the family and they’ll miss his laughter and smile.

“Just hearing him crack jokes, because he liked to play all the time…we’ll miss his presence,” said Johnjalene Woods.

While the loss of their loved ones never gets easier, the family still tries to get together safely to fellowship. The family tells CBS 42 they’ve relied on their faith and prayers to get them through.

“Last year, God placed a song on my heart that I couldn’t shake it. And it was ‘You are my strength,’ and that song stayed with me until February and then all this started happening in March,” said Barbara Woods. 


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