The story of a man behind the latest COVID-19 death toll in Knox County

Local News

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — You hear about COVID-19 case counts every day. News organizations share how many people are in the hospital and a slew of other statistics. We get that information from health officials. It’s important data to report because it’s the only measure of the spread and severity of the virus.

It shows you the big picture. We are doing our best, though, to also show you the whole picture. That’s why the Minton Family decided to share this story.

In photos, Blair Minton, smiles big. That’s what you notice when you look at pictures of him. His sister, BeBe, calls him a jokester.

“He’s just wonderful,” she said.

This story could tell itself. It goes on like so many others across the country.

“It’s just heartbreaking,” his sister said.

Person gets sick. Person tests positive for COVID. Person hospitalized.

“That’s the worst part, just keeping them so isolated,” she said.

That smile, this story, belongs to Blair Minton. Even in old photos from their childhood, that smile is ever present. She lives in Illinois and he lives in Maryville, so much of their conversations are over the phone.

“I had a feeling it was going to happen,” she said.

She recently got another picture of him. All you notice in this one is the ventilator.

“I got to see him right before, but he looked, so awful. Just beat down, tired, he looked scared, but I was grateful I got to say hello, goodbye, and I’ll see you when you wake up,” Bebe said.

Blair’s wife, Esther, sent her that final picture.

“I have faith and believe that God will take care of us,” Esther said.

Two days before Thanksgiving came the symptoms. She took him to a Knoxville hospital on November 30th.

“He was fine. They said, you know, you have some pneumonia, COVID, gave him some meds to come home on,” Esther said. “His O2 stats were fine. Everything was fine and, boy, in 48 hours he went downhill and he went downhill fast.”

A picture of him in the hospital came home with her, but Blair did not.

“Horrible. I was crying. It was awful because I knew he was going to be admitted and I knew I couldn’t see him and it just, it’s awful,” Esther recalled.

It is the same hospital where his daughter works as an ER nurse.

“My daughter is up to date on everything and what’s going on and she can ask questions that I may not think about asking,” Blair’s wife explained.

The entire family works in healthcare. The entire family got COVID-19. The entire family recovered, but the brother, dad, husband. This is the whole picture.

“Before I go to bed every night I call and check on him and that’s kind of our life right now, you know, I video chat. Tell him I love him and miss you,” Esther said.

A lifetime of smiles and laughter are replaced by the site and sound of a vent.

“There’s no one to share childhood memories with,” his sister said. “That’s the thing that’s really got me the most, I think, and I thought I’d be like in my 80s before I had to deal with that. Not 60.”

Of all the special occasions captured for photo albums, a photo of Blair Minton on a ventilator captures his 69th birthday.

“We’re kind of just numbers, but we’re really not. We’re families that are missing our loved ones and can’t be with them and that’s the hardest thing,” his wife said.

This Christmas, it’s not going to be what you notice about the Minton’s Family pictures. It’s what you won’t.

“I have his presents sitting on the tree on the table,” Esther said.

The family did ask us not to share what hospital Blair was in to protect their daughter’s privacy.

The Mintons had hoped that by the time this story was aired, he would be awake to watch it. He died just a few hours before the newscast. His wife was able to be by his side.

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