Maxine Waters gets real about COVID-19, reveals she lost sister to virus

'It is one of the most painful things I've ever had to experience in my life,' Waters tells theGrio in an exclusive interview.

Rep. Maxine Waters
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) speaks at a press conference on Capitol Hill January 31, 2017 in Washington, DC. Waters called for investigation into Trump administration ties to Russia. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

The devastating toll of COVID-19 on the Black community has hit home for Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA).

In an interview with theGrio on Thursday, Rep. Waters shared that her sister recently passed away from coronavirus.

“It is one of the most painful things that I’ve ever had to experience in my life,” Rep. Waters told theGrio. “She had suffered. And so we are going through a very difficult time. It was not easy, but in many ways, I’m so glad she’s out of pain.”

READ MORE: Maxine Waters slams Trump in fiery tweets: ‘You incompetent idiot!’

(Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

Homegoing services will be held in her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri.

The congresswoman recently offered an emotion-filled tribute to her sister on Capitol Hill during a debate over a stimulus relief bill.

Rep. Waters said that her sister, like many African-American seniors, was living in an assisted care facility, which the congresswoman said could be a dangerous environment for the vulnerable.

“The nursing home is the only place we have for many of our seniors, many of whom have outlived their families,” Rep. Waters told theGrio. “That’s where they go. And now these nursing homes are like a petri dish for the continued development of this virus that is killing us.”

Rep. Waters said that she has lost several friends and loved ones to coronavirus.  The congresswoman’s personal losses have only further strengthened her conviction that Black Americans must prioritize their health.

READ MORE: Angela Yee talks racism against Black and Asian communities amid coronavirus pandemic

“I want Black people to do everything that they can to take care of themselves,” Waters said.

“I want them to be aware that they gotta have masks. They can’t go out. They can’t party. They can’t be in groups. I want them to isolate as much as they can. I want us to honor all of that. I want us to be patient with all of that.”

Rep. Waters also blasted President Donald Trump for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The President of the United States does not care,” she told theGrio. “He does not care about these deaths.”

She also makes it clear that she doesn’t blame Black Americans for structural inequalities which have worsened the impact on their communities.

“We are disproportionately vulnerable,” she says. “And why is that? We don’t have health insurance. Oftentimes, we can’t afford it. We don’t work on a job where it’s available to us. And so we are doing whatever we can do, going to the emergency room trying to find a free federal clinic that can help us.”

Rep. Waters said she is also working with the housing authority in L.A. County to supply residents of public housing with masks, which may be hard to acquire or unaffordable.

The congresswoman also recently led the effort to set aside $60 billion dollars of $310 billion dollar PPP coronavirus relief funding for minority, women-owned and small businesses. She emphasized that both the economic well-being and physical health of the community, are key for survival.

“In the final analysis, you’ve got to take care of yourself,” she said, “because a lot of people out there don’t care about you.”

Subscribe to theGrio’s YouTube channel for the full interview with Congresswoman Maxine Waters, airing Friday AM.

Natasha S. Alford is VP of Digital Content and a senior correspondent for theGrio.  Follow her at @natashasalford on Twitter and Instagram.


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