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Chesterfield criminal reform advocate, 42, hospitalized with COVID. Her 3 kids at home have COVID, too: ' It took us all out – in the matter of a day'

Chesterfield criminal reform advocate, 42, hospitalized with COVID. Her 3 kids at home have COVID, too: ' It took us all out – in the matter of a day'

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BeKura Shabazz speaks from hospital with COVID: "COVID is real"

As a criminal justice advocate, a single mother and a Black woman, BeKura Shabazz is used to going to battle for others.

But while she fights for her own life, she has been sidelined from her work through criminal justice nonprofit organizations of ensuring that the law is applied equally and fairly to those accused of crimes or incarcerated — and calling for changes when it’s not — as well as caring for her children.

“I’ve gotta get back out there,” the 42-year-old woman from Chesterfield County said from her bed at Southside Regional Medical Center, a Bon Secours hospital in Petersburg.

She was admitted about a week ago, she said, with COVID-19 and double pneumonia after two prior visits.

“I think I underestimated — I think a lot of people underestimate COVID. It doesn’t hit everybody the same way,” Shabazz said. “It took me right up out of here.”

She had been careful, she said, staying isolated most of last year. When she did go out, she wore a mask.

But Shabazz was hesitant to get the vaccine, which studies have shown and public health officials say prevents some of the most severe effects of COVID like hospitalization and death.

“I have changed my mind completely,” Shabazz said of the vaccine. “As soon as I get out of here, all of us are going to get it. I’d rather have some line of defense than no line of defense.”

At home, her three children have also tested positive for the virus. Her youngest, 6, suffered headaches. Her daughter, 13, lost her senses of taste and smell; she’s also the one who called 911 when Shabazz passed out in the bathroom of their home on Aug. 6 before she was hospitalized.

Her oldest is 21 and already suffers diminished lung capacity from chronic asthma, which has rendered him disabled.

“I’m all they have,” she said in a video interview Monday. “They’ve depended on me all of their lives. I don’t regret that; it’s the joy of my life. They need me, and I need them. I gotta get back.”

She also has a fourth child, a grown daughter who is serving in the Army and stationed in Tennessee. Her two youngest are due to start school next week — and now she’s scared to send them back, she said.

Shabazz thanked those who have sent food and donations to make sure the children eat. There’s little she can do from the hospital bed, she said.

“I can’t take care of my children. I’m a single parent. I didn’t have any help,” she said. “I’m just helpless.”


Since she first got sick on Aug. 1, Shabazz’s Facebook page, usually full of inspirational quotes, selfies and photos of her children, and videos of her tireless advocacy, has shown the deterioration as she’s struggled against the virus. Three days into it, she posted that she was going to the hospital to see if she had COVID-19, but Shabazz said she was not tested and was sent home after being told it was just a bug.

On Aug. 6, her daughter posted asking if someone could drive Shabazz to the hospital.

“She is not doing well and can’t drive herself please and thank you,” the post read.

Shabazz passed out and her daughter called an ambulance to take her to the hospital, where she tested positive for COVID-19 but was again sent home, this time with medication. But it wasn’t until Aug. 9 when she passed out a second time that she was admitted to Southside Regional. She’s been there and on oxygen ever since.

The next posts were bleak. She asked people to stop calling because she couldn’t talk — “it took too much out of me,” she said.

In a three-minute video posted Thursday, she is lying there wheezing swallow breaths and coughing. “Help” is the caption on the video.

By Sunday, she appeared better, mentally and physically. Still, on Monday, Shabazz said it broke her heart when her daughter asked if she was going to die.

“Because you don’t know,” she said. “You don’t know if COVID is going to take you out of here. But you can’t tell a 13-year-old that you might not make it. So you muster up everything you got in you and say you’re coming home.”

Shabazz said the nurses and doctors caring for her are doing the best they can, but COVID is still new; it affects everyone differently and is rapidly changing.

“They’re hoping just like everybody else is,” Shabazz said of the medical staff. “They’re hoping that everybody has a speedy recovery. They’re [trying] whatever they can to help people beat this thing.”

To those still skeptical of the virus, or the vaccine, Shabazz said, “I hope they don’t have to catch it to believe it.”

“This disease is real and it don’t care about nobody,” she said.

“It took us all out — in the matter of a day. I can’t sit back and ignore it and act like that’s not happened. I have to make an intelligent decision, not only for me and my family, but for people I don’t know because I’m a human being and I care about others and their safety,” she continued. “It is our right to take care of one another. That is the definition of patriotism.”

(804) 649-6527

Twitter: @AliRockettRTD


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