Image via Shutterstock Elizabeth Warren
Image via Shutterstock

Like so many other Americans who’ve lost loved ones to the coronavirus, Warren was unable to say goodbye to her brother in person.

Donald Reed Herring, the oldest brother of Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, died of the coronavirus on Tuesday night in Norman, Oklahoma, the Boston Globe reported Thursday. 

Herring, a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, was 86 years old.

Warren has roundly criticized the Trump administration’s slow and inconsistent response to the pandemic for months, but kept her own family’s battle with the virus private. Herring tested positive for COVID-19 about three weeks ago, according to the Globe. 

The senator confirmed coronavirus was the cause of death and shared the news of her brother’s death herself in a series of Thursday morning tweets. 

“I’m grateful to the nurses and frontline staff who took care of him, but it’s hard to know that there was no family to hold his hand or to say “I love you” one more time—and no funeral for those of us who loved him to hold each other close,” Warren wrote. “I’ll miss you dearly my brother.”

Like so many other Americans who’ve lost loved ones to the coronavirus, Warren was unable to say goodbye to her brother in person. She described Herring as “charming and funny” and “a natural leader” with a “quick and crooked” smile. Born in 1933, Herring joined the Air Force at 19 and served for two decades, including a stint in Vietnam, where he flew 288 combat missions, according to the Globe. 

Herring lived with his wife, Judith Anne Hart, in a small house in Newcastle, Oklahoma, but had been hospitalized for pneumonia in February and moved to a rehabilitation center to recover. According to information provided to the Globe by his family, he had also been diagnosed with cancer years earlier and undergone treatment. 

COVID-19 has disproportionately killed older Americans with pre-existing health issues and inpatient care facilities have been uniquely devastated by the coronavirus. According to the family, the facility where Herring was staying had multiple confirmed cases of the virus. Herring was then tested for COVID-19 and diagnosed with it in early April. He did not show symptoms for 11 days, but was ultimately moved to the intensive care unit at Norman Regional Hospital on April 15 and died six days later. 

Warren was one of the earliest U.S. lawmakers to sound the alarm about the coronavirus, which she did back in January while she was still running for president. She has released several plans to address the public health and economic consequences of the coronavirus, which include efforts to dramatically scale up coronavirus tests to slow the spread of the virus and to make those tests free. She also emphasized the need to ramp up manufacturing of ventilators and medical supplies to rapidly increase the capacity of the healthcare system and urged President Trump to invoke the Stafford Act, the declaration of which frees up public health and natural disaster resources to be utilized to aid state and local governments. 

Arguing he misled the public from the beginning and has allocated resources based on political alliances and not medical needs, Warren has called for an investigation into Trump’s response to the pandemic. She has also continued to introduce plans and reforms to address the devastation being wrought by the coronavirus—a devastation that has now been visited upon the senator’s own doorstep.

Donald Reed Herring is survived by Warren, his brothers, David and John Herring, his wife, and his two sons, John and Jeffrey.