Young, pregnant Chicago woman, dead from COVID, was afraid to get vaccinated

Charmaine Bailey, who lived in Avalon Park, was 26. In Cook County in April, 32 people under 50 died of coronavirus, showing the pandemic remains a threat to younger people.

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Charmaine Bailey, 26, died April 21 from COVID-19. She was five months pregnant and feared getting vaccinated

Charmaine Bailey, 26, died April 21 from COVID-19. She was five months pregnant and feared getting vaccinated


Thirty-two people in Cook County 49 or younger died from COVID-19 in April, according to the latest list of victims released by the medical examiner’s office.

One of them was Charmaine Bailey, 26, who lived in Avalon Park on the South Side.

Charmaine, who worked at a day care center, died April 21 at the University of Illinois Hospital less than two weeks after falling ill. She was five months pregnant. Her baby died two days before she did.

It was a heartbreaking double loss for her mother Ethel Murry, who told me her daughter loved taking care of children and was looking forward to having one of her own. She’d picked out the name Harmony.

“That’s all she ever wanted was a baby,” said Sheree Bogan, a close friend from the day care center, who said mothers were glad to leave their babies in Charmaine’s care. “They knew with Charmaine their kids were safe.”

Murry described her daughter as a healthy young woman who “never really was sick” other than an asthma condition that didn’t cause her any limitations.

“She went to work every day,” her mother said.

But on April 8 Charmaine came down with a fever, went to a hospital emergency room and tested positive for COVID-19. Her condition deteriorated over the following days, and she was placed on a ventilator.

“When the baby passed, they told us [Charmaine] would be OK,” said her younger sister Cherise Bailey. “A day later, they was telling us they couldn’t do nothing more.”

Charmaine Bailey.

Charmaine Bailey.


We’ve made great strides. The number of coronavirus cases is dropping, and the percentage of Americans vaccinated keeps increasing. Life might soon return to a semblance of normal.

But we’re not in the clear yet, and the number of people seeking vaccinations has slowed, with younger people among those whose interest in the vaccine is lagging.

There are many ideas out there on how to improve the vaccination rate among younger adults. I continue to believe you can’t go wrong by simply showing people that someone who might have been very much like themselves proved vulnerable to this deadly disease.

Of those 32 April deaths of people under 50 years old, all but eight involved Black or Hispanic victims.

I can’t tell you whether those who died had been vaccinated. But Charmaine Bailey had not. She was among the sizable group of Americans who have been described as vaccine hesitant.

“Everybody was wondering, like, what did they put in there to get COVID,” her mother said of her daughter’s reluctance to get the vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says pregnant women are more likely to get severely ill if they contract COVID-19 than those who aren’t pregnant but stops short of urging them to get vaccinated, just citing the “limited but growing evidence” that it is safe.

Charmaine Bailey.

Charmaine Bailey.


Murry, 46, said she had urged her daughter to get vaccinated because of her work at a day care center.

Murry said she hadn’t been vaccinated herself but “wanted to get” the shots. “I work in a factory where they were getting [COVID] left and right.”

But she said she had concerns about being vaccinated because she has had cancer.

Murry said she became ill and tested positive for COVID around the same time as her daughter, but she recovered and recently was vaccinated.

Charmaine’s sister Cherise said she also contracted COVID, in February, but her symptoms were mild.

Because of her own experience, “I really didn’t take it serious,” Cherise Bailey said.

Her sister’s death changed that. She got vaccinated this past week.

“If you’re able to get [the vaccine], you need to get it,” she said.

Bogan said her friend Charmaine’s death has changed her mind as well.

“I kept saying, ‘I’m not doing the shot, I’m not doing the shot,’ but, when this happened to her, I went out and got the shot,” Bogan said.

By pointing out that Charmaine had not been vaccinated, I don’t in any way mean to suggest that she was at fault in her own death.

I’m only saying that if her family and friends had a chance to do things differently, they would.

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