Jeremy Emerich, a critical care EMT on the ground for Lehigh Valley Health Network’s MedEvac, died Thursday following a battle with COVID-19, friends and coworkers said on social media.
Emerich was also a U.S. Armed Forces veteran and an active firefighter in Fleetwood, the Berks County community where he lived with his companion, Shana Konek. He was 40.
His death comes about six weeks after his brother, 30-year-old Reading resident Liborio Lara, died—also from the coronavirus illness, The Reading Eagle reported.
Emergency responders from across the region lined Route 222 on Thursday afternoon as Emerich’s remains were taken to Bean Funeral Home in Sinking Spring, Berks County, which handled arrangements for Lara, as well. A MedEvac helicopter joined the procession overhead.
“It is with the deepest sadness and regret we announce the death of Critical Care EMT Jeremy Emerich,” Bryan Evans, manager of MedEvac/emergency transport operations and business development at LVHN, wrote Thursday on Facebook. “Jeremy has been hospitalized and fought valiantly until this morning.”
Another post from May 15 revealed Emerich had been in critical condition as he battled COVID-19.
"COVID19 is very real," Evans posted earlier this week. "It has devastating impacts that are not just in nursing homes or the elderly."
Members of the MedEvac team had posed with a banner reading, "Jeremy You Got This MedEvac Strong," for a photo that was posted to the helicopter transport's Facebook page on Sunday.
"We are deeply saddened by the passing of our colleague, Jeremy, and want to express our sincere condolences to his family," Lehigh Valley Health Network said in a statement Thursday provided by spokesman Brian Downs. "He served the community selflessly in various capacities as a first responder for many years and was an outstanding member of the LVHN MedEvac team the past seven years."
Emerich was among those recognized with the 2016 Valley Preferred Spirit of Courage awards presented at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Muhlenberg in Bethlehem. He was among the emergency responders who got a disabled man through a window as a fire engulfed the man’s home.
Pennsylvania as of Thursday had 65,392 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with a death toll of 4,869 since the state’s first patients were diagnosed March 6.
As new cases continue to drop statewide, some counties have begun transitioning from an economic shutdown and stay-at-home orders to a limited reopening.