HALIFAX -- Karen Turpin was shocked when she suddenly learned last week that her long-time friend, Sherry Slaunwhite, had died at home of COVID-19.

"I want people to take this COVID very seriously," she says from her apartment. "It's not a joke."

Turpin herself is in self-isolation, waiting for the result of her COVID-19 test, after learning about a possible exposure to the virus on a Halifax Transit bus.

It was on another bus that Turpin last saw her friend about two weeks ago.

"She looked so happy and out there, and I would never suspect that she would come in contact with COVID and die from it."

"I'm still trying to wrap my head around it."

Turpin says Slaunwhite was 52 years old and a mother – who she describes as "kind, fun, and welcoming."

"She always made sure you had a meal in your belly, a place to lay your head," she recalls.

While the province does not give names and details of those who die from the virus, at a news conference Tuesday, Premier Iain Rankin did describe the latest two people to pass from the illness.

"One person in their 50s, and the other person in their 70s, both from the Halifax area, and both died at home of COVID complications."

Slaunwhite's friends say they don't know how she got the virus, but they want others to know just how serious it is.

"Take it seriously," says another friend, Linda Smith, "and always check on your friends."

Smith says she knew Slaunwhite for years but hadn't had the chance to see her much during the pandemic.

"I called her 'Sher-bear', and she called me 'Lou Lou.' We have a lot of memories together," she says in a video chat from Porters Lake.

Smith's sister, Theresa, also has fond memories of Slaunwhite.
"Sherry would give you the shirt off her back, she had a heart of gold," she says in a video message.

But along with the memories of their friend, is frustration.

Karen Turpin is angry over people who don't think the virus is serious.

"If you don't want to wear a mask, then stay home," she says.

"The rules are put in place for a reason, and this COVID is not going away, it's not going away for a long time."

"God forbid they get COVID," she says. "Because COVID is killing people."

She also criticizes decision-makers for failing to do enough to keep the virus and its dangerous variants out of the province, with exposure notifications on various flights on the airport.

"If they want to get a handle on COVID, they just need to do better," she says.
"Because I don't think they are doing any better."