“Ithought about how scary it would be to have COVID-19, especially as a single parent and sole provider. My worst-case scenario was ending up in the hospital, and that’s exactly what happened to me.”
Candi Brings Plenty, 39, a single mother of two teenage girls, tested positive for COVID-19 in late September. Her children and multiple other family members also contracted the virus, including her grandmother who died from it.
Candi was living on the Pine Ridge Reservation in a cabin when the pandemic hit South Dakota in March. The cabin they were living in got sold to the tribe, so Candi and her two children, now 17 and 15, moved to Rapid City.
“I was very comfortable living out in the middle of nowhere during this pandemic, but once I came into Rapid City, I knew (we) were in a pod of exposure,” Candi said.
She and her children were always cautious to wear masks, social distance and wash their hands. They had been working to sew masks for people and helped deliver meals and supplies for Meals for Relatives.
“I was always on board with masking up and protecting our Oyate, our people, and especially the elders and the vulnerable and myself,” Candi said. “I have pre-existing conditions. I have diabetes and I have asthma. Being a single parent and being their sole provider, I knew it was very important for me to keep myself safe.”
Candi said that when her family moved to Rapid City, they felt their prayers were answered because they were able to find a beautiful new home. By the time she moved, she saw a need to help cook for Meals for Relatives.
“In our culture, it’s called Wopila, ‘to give back.’ I told (my children) this is what we’re going to do for our Wopila, we’re going to give back and we’re going to cook for these COVID-19 families,” Candi said.
Every week from May until the time she contracted COVID-19, Candi and her children took a night to cook for Indigenous families who have COVID-19 and would deliver the meals to their homes with no contact, eliminating any chance of transmission.
One day, Candi delivered food to an elder’s home, and the elder invited her inside.
“I contracted COVID-19 because for one moment, I forgot,” Candi said. “I didn’t wear my mask when I went to visit an elder. I went into their home because they offered me coffee and wanted to visit. We’re supposed to protect our elders and keep our distance from our elders, and I had a meal with them for over 20 minutes until I noticed they were coughing.”
Once Candi realized the elders were coughing and kept their heater on despite the warm weather due to chills, another COVID-19 symptom, she got up to leave and asked that they all get tested for COVID-19 the next day.
The elders were positive, and Candi tested positive within days.
Candi made sure to stay home and quarantine after exposure and continued to isolate at home after her test came back positive. Despite her best efforts, several of her relatives became sick with COVID-19 in a matter of days.
“I had some relatives living with me at the time who were temporarily staying with me, and I am so shocked at how quick I infected five other people almost all in one day because they stopped in at my house,” Candi said.
Her brother, sister, niece, two daughters and a person who had entered Candi’s home without her consent all tested positive for COVID-19 in a short time.
“I just watched it spread like wildfire,” Candi said. “To this day, I still feel horrible watching how it impacted my relatives and how they had to take time off from work and how they lost paychecks, and all the effort that I worked towards” in staying safe from COVID-19.
Candi’s symptom onset began when she was sleeping and woke up at 5 a.m. freezing with the “worst cold I’ve ever felt.” She put on blankets, sweatpants and a hoodie and couldn’t stay warm.