OAK CREEK — The family of an Oak Creek man who died last week after a battle with COVID-19 is frustrated restrictions are being eased as people continue to die from the virus.
Just a few weeks ago, Dale Groszkiewicz learned his younger brother John tested positive for coronavirus and needed to be hospitalized.
“He says if I have to go on a ventilator, I said, 'yeah go ahead', and that was the last I talked to him,” Dale recalled.
Dale gathered pictures full of memories Friday to be displayed at John’s funeral this weekend. Dale says the father of two who loved nothing more than spending time with his young granddaughter is gone at 61 years old.
"It hurt because that's my only brother, too,” Dale said. “It was tough, and he loved to talk. He would just talk and talk and talk and talk, and I just miss that."
While Dale says he’s fully vaccinated, he acknowledges that his brother John was not.
"He wanted to, but he was in the hospital like six weeks before that for cellulitis, and they said they couldn't give it to him in the hospital at that time,” Dale said. “So, he went back home, and he was getting better on his cellulitis and he was going to get the shot, and he just didn't get around to it."
Dale says the most frustrating part of losing his brother now is seeing efforts to limit the spread of coronavirus like mask mandates and capacity limits go away, while families like his suffer through unimaginable pain.
“I just think it's too early to go back to normal,” Dale said. “Not until we get 70 to 80 percent of people vaccinated."
According to the state, 37 percent of people living in Milwaukee County are fully vaccinated.
“I can understand why people who have lost a loved one would feel very frightened about this scenario, because it is a big change from what we have been used to,” said UW Health’s Medical Director of Infection Prevention Dr. Nasia Safdar.
Dr. Safdar says vaccination rates are a key part of the equation for justifying the sudden shift back to normalcy, but she says low COVID-19 case counts and warm weather are also important factors to lifting restrictions.
“All of those things are happening, but it's a very fluid situation, so just because that's the case today doesn't mean that's going to be the case a month from now,” she said.
As many people prepare to return to their pre-pandemic lives, Dale knows his life will never be the same without his brother.
”Please get vaccinated, just please, you don't want to lose somebody to that,” he said. “You just don't. And people say, ‘oh, preexisting conditions’ - no, if he didn't get COVID he'd still be walking around. He would be."