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AP pair tells of woman’s remorse at exposing her father to COVID

Michelle Pepe tries to smell her late father's wallet while going through his belongings one year after he died of the coronavirus, in Sharon, Mass., on Wednesday, April 14, 2021. After contracting the virus herself, Pepe lost and has not regained her sense of smell. She keeps her father's belongings in hopes that one day it comes back and she can smell him again. (AP Photo/Jessie Wardarski)

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Youth and faith reporter Luis Henao and visual journalist Jessie Wardarski, both New York-based members of AP’s religion team, captured in a poignant story what thousands of people around the world are living with — the guilt and remorse of believing they inadvertently infected a loved one who died of COVID-19.

One of those feeling responsibility is Michelle Pepe, traveled from Boston to Florida for her mother’s 80th birthday In March 2020, just as the pandemic bloomed in the U.S. Pepe believes she gave the coronavirus to her father, Bernie Rubin, who died weeks later.

The intimate story,eloquently told in all formats by Henao and Wardarski,resonated with AP customers and readers at home and abroad,with many sharing their own stories and fears on social media. Pepe,featured in the story,thanked the pair in an email and said she was inundated with requests from broadcasters to tell her story,which might help people in similar circumstances. But she hadn’t watched the whole AP video yet, saying: “I need to prep myself.”

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Michelle Pepe holds a bouquet of yellow roses on her father’s grave as family and friends watch in Sharon, Mass., April 13, 2021. – AP Photo / Jessie Wardarski
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