On front lines battling COVID-19, more than 400 registered nurses have died, including 23 in FL

By: - May 20, 2021 3:54 pm

Nurses protest in Washington, D.C., over lack of protective gear. Credit: YouTube.

Florida’s Elizabeth “Lee” Motzenbecker of Venice worked for more than 40 years as a registered nurse, dedicating her life to caring for others, according to her obituary.

At 61, she died losing a battle to COVID-19.

Motzenbecker and 22 other registered nurses in Florida have died thus far in the pandemic, according to the National Nurses United (NNU) union. Nationwide, the death toll is 403 as of May 12, according to the union, which has been tracking nurse deaths across the nation.

The NNU provided data to the Florida Phoenix, showing the names, ages and cities in Florida of registered nurses who have succumbed to COVID. The ages ranged from 20s to 60s and above.

Nurse James White, of Lake City, died at 27, in August of 2020 after a battle with the virus, according to a WCTV report. That report said White’s family believes he contracted the coronavirus while working at the Lake City VA Medical Center.

Health care workers across the nation continue to battle the coronavirus on the frontlines in hospitals and other health care settings, resulting in deaths and infections from caring for sick patients.

The union noted that its data is from “media reports, social media, and obituaries to determine its list of registered nurses who have died of COVID-19, but the number is most certainly an undercount” because they believe many deaths “are not reported publicly.”

Meanwhile, COVID-19 continues to infect and kill Floridians, as more contagious mutations, called variants, spread across the state and the nation. In total, Florida reported 2,259,494 coronavirus infections among residents and 36,347 resident deaths, according to Thursday’s report from the Florida Department of Health.

With more Americans receiving COVID-19 vaccines, federal health officials relaxed safety protocols and issued new guidance a week ago, saying that people fully vaccinated against COVID don’t need a face mask in most situations and other recommendations.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cited an increase in people getting shots in arms, but the nurses union condemned the new mask guidance.

Bonnie Castillo, executive director of NNU and registered nurse, said in a written statement:

“This newest CDC guidance is not based on science, does not protect public health, and threatens the lives of patients, nurses, and other frontline workers across the country. Now is not the time to relax protective measures, and we are outraged that the CDC has done just that while we are still in the midst of the deadliest pandemic in a century.”

Here is the list of registered nurses who have died, thus far:

Name Age Location
James White 27 Lake City
Miguel Martinez 28 Fort Myers
William Rivera Jr. 41 Pembroke Pines
Zalika Kaza 42 St. Cloud
Barbara Langburt 43 St. Petersburg
Akua Bosompem 44 Jacksonville
William Riddle 48 Jacksonville
Penny Scarangella Smith 48 Bartow
Steven Neher 49 Tampa
Angel Sousa 53 Miami
Julie Healy 55 Fort Myers
Earl Bailey 56 Fort Lauderdale, Hialeah
Diane Jones 57 Tampa
Lorna Ramirez Retener 60 Unknown
Elizabeth Motzenbecker 61 Venice
Virginia McCamish 61 Stuart
Abby Andres 62 Largo
Sherry Knowles 62 Orlando
Araceli Buendia Ilagan 63 Miami
Eugene McFeely 64 Aventura
Mark Sterns 64 Ocoee
Sonia Brown 65 Miami
Charles Manrique 71 Unknown

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Issac Morgan
Issac Morgan

Issac Morgan is a 2009 graduate of Florida A&M University's School of Journalism, and a proud native of Tallahassee. He has covered city council and community events at the Gadsden County Times, worked as a sports news assistant at the Tallahassee Democrat, a communications specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and as a proofreader at the Florida Law Weekly.