San Diego Man Shares Feeling of ‘Survivor Guilt' As County's COVID-19 Deaths Rise

Rich Pickett still has COVID-19 antibodies and is donating blood to help others with their fight

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San Diego County has set yet another record for weekly COVID-19 deaths reported, this time beating its previous high by 61.

The county reported 190 deaths for the week of Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, and the county has reported 543 deaths, or 34% of its 1,598 deaths since the pandemic started, since Dec. 5.

San Diego County COVID-19-related deaths reported by week.

COVID-19 survivor Rich Pickett, who has been sharing his journey since April when he tested positive, said the data isn't easy to digest.

“I made it and other people didn’t, so OK, you have this sort of survivor’s guilt, like how did I make it and they didn’t?” Pickett asked himself. It’s been nine months since the 67-year-old grandfather and private pilot from Tierrasanta beat COVID-19.

“I never thought that it would’ve gone this long and this intense,” said Pickett.  

He said watching the number of deaths reported each day is difficult.

“I think, to me, the absolute saddest part of this is when somebody is passing away in the ICU or the ER and they can’t be with their loved ones to say goodbye,” said Pickett.

Nearly 1,600 San Diegans have lost their battles to COVID-19, a disease Pickett describes as “vicious.”

“The breathing was the absolute worst, because you just can’t breathe anymore. It’s not the flu,” said Pickett.

He remembered suffering from a high fever and chills leading up to his hospitalization.

According to data reported from San Diego County, over the past three years, a total of 528 San Diegans died from the flu. That's less than a third of local COVID-19 deaths reported since February.

Pickett said he was tested for COVID-19 antibodies. He still has them and just donated blood to help others with their fight.

“December, that was the first time [that I donated blood] after the confirmation about the antibodies and then this month I hope to do the plasma, if I still have the antibodies,” said Pickett.

Pickett said he’s frustrated with those who are not taking the coronavirus seriously and is hoping his story encourages people to take precautions.

“The level of risk taking when you see the number of cases and deaths, I just don’t understand it. It’s a shared risk and people don’t realize that and the impact on the medical system," said Pickett.

The Southern California Region is still at 0% ICU capacity and the current stay-at-home order remains in effect after five weeks.

Picket is pleading with people to follow public health orders and not mix with those outside of their households unless six feet of distance can be ensured.

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