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Disease experts, family of Utah firefighter lost to COVID-19 warn about new BA.5 strain

Posted at 9:29 PM, Jul 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-25 23:41:42-04

KAYSVILLE, Utah — A new COVID-19 variant is creating concern among doctors and families who have lost their loved ones to the virus.

Infectious disease experts say the BA.5 strain is causing higher transmission rates and more hospitalizations.

The family of a former fire captain is asking the community to take it seriously.

“He’s a hero to his family and his community, and he’s touched so many lives in so many ways,” said his daughter, Ashley Green.

Steven Gunnell’s daughters grew up hearing about him rescuing families from fires and helping deliver babies in emergency situations.

“He was basically my hero,” said Amber Munn, another one of his daughters. “He loved to help people.”

Gunnell was a firefighter for 35 years and was a captain for the Ogden and the Kaysville City fire departments. He was on multiple search-and-rescue and hazmat teams. He administered more than 1,000 COVID-19 vaccines for the Davis County Health Department.

“He was a super, super healthy man with a lot of time left, and we feel very robbed to have lost him,” said Green.

In June, Gunnell tested positive for COVID-19. He passed away 10 days later.

“Even I kept thinking, ‘Oh my dad, he had COVID before. He’ll get better. I had COVID, I got better,’” said his daughter, Amanda Lee Gunnell. “But there’s just things we don’t know and there’s that new strain.”

“Even the healthiest, active grandpas can lose their life to something like this,” said Green.

His daughters want to warn the community that COVID-19 can affect everybody differently.

“He lived a life where he would do things for people just because,” said Amanda Lee Gunnell. “And I think that’s what’s inspiring me to be a better person is to be more like my dad.”