WESTFIELD – Ninety-six candles lined the fountain in Park Square Green Feb. 14 in a sobering reminder of the human toll extracted by COVID-19 in the City of Westfield.
Board of Health Chair Juanita Carnes thought of the idea about a month ago, and was quickly granted the blessing of Health Director Joseph Rouse.
“We have thrown out so much information to the public. It’s time to acknowledge the people from our community, our family, our friends who have died from this virus,” said Carnes at the vigil on Sunday.
The 96 candles surrounding the water fountain each represent a single person in Westfield who is confirmed to have died from COVID-19 over the past year. In addition to the candles on the fountain, signs were hung in remembrance of all of those who have died from the virus.
Kathi Cotugno, coordinator of the Coalition for Outreach, Recovery, and Education (CORE) also made “ice luminaries” that lined the walkways surrounding the fountain. The ice luminaries were candles that were placed inside hollow half-spheres of ice.
Carnes said that she chose Valentine’s Day to hold the vigil because she thought of it as a good day for people to embrace those that they love, especially after so many loved ones have been lost to the pandemic.
Though vigils typically involve crowds, Carnes and the Board of Health decided to bar crowds from attending, as that could be a vector for further spread of COVID-19 in a time when case counts are trending downward.