SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, 443 Chatham County residents have died from COVID-19. 

That includes Martin and Trina Daniel of Savannah, who died from the virus within three hours of each other.

“They were both just lovely people,” said Quintella Daniel, Martin and Trina’s niece. “To know them was to love them. Just as their kids, to know them is to love them as well.”

Quintella recalls spending summers in Savannah with her aunt and uncle. She said they were both advocates for education and always encouraged family members.

“I’m really gonna miss him. I’m gonna miss him my whole life. Him and my aunt Trina, both,” Quintella said.

The couple was not vaccinated, citing mistrust, namely the treatment of Black men during the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment between 1932 and 1972. That’s when medical treatment was withheld from African-American servicemen as part of a government study.

Family members say that mistrust kept them from a possibly life-saving vaccine. As a nurse, Quintella knows the devastation of the virus all too well.

“I watched people on vents pass away. Two people at a time on a ventilator. And I would watch other people on the sides sit there and wait for somebody to die to get on so their life could be saved,” she said, “Sometimes their lives were saved, other times it was not. But all we can do at this time is keep the faith, pray to God, get vaccinated.”

The extended family is now taking care of the couple’s 15-year-old daughter and 18-year-old son, who is college-bound in a few weeks. Family members have set up a GoFundMe to help financially support the children.

Quintella urges everyone to do what she wishes her aunt and uncle had done.

“We have to practice infection control so we can get rid of this virus because it’s taken a lot of people. It’s taken two of my loved ones,” she said. “I just think that if my uncle and aunt were still here today, they probably would tell everyone to get vaccinated.”

The couple was married for 22 years.

Martin died on July 6 at 53 years old. Trina died on July 7 at 49 years old.