"My grandfather got COVID, the healthiest man I knew... he died in three weeks' time on a ventilator alone. It's so important to me to let people know how incredibly real this virus is, how it will take the healthiest among us in absolutely no time," said Brie Hammer. "In three weeks', time, he went from standing healthy to a ventilator. He died on my birthday."
Hammer was one of the more than a dozen people who gathered in Chavis Park Saturday afternoon to remember those who died from COVID-19.
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"I really wanted to open this year on a positive note," Hammer said. "Coming together as a community is, unfortunately, something we've had to avoid during COVID-19 but that's why we thought a socially distant event to give people the chance to come and publicly cry."
Hammer is part of the group Black Hammer that hosted Saturday's event and distributes PPE to people in the community.
"The COVID-19 rate specifically in the triangle has been astronomical and as businesses and the state reopen, we want to make sure people are protected in the best way," Hammer said.
RELATED: NC reports more than 18,800 new COVID-19 cases in first two days of 2021 as hospitalizations remain high
North Carolina reported a 15.5% positivity rate on Saturday, a record for the state.
COVID-19 cases also reached new records with more than 18,000 new cases reported between Jan. 1- Jan.2.
With more than 3,400 North Carolinians hospitalized and 6,892 people reported dead, NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen said this is the "most dangerous position in this pandemic."
"I encourage you to avoid getting together indoors with anyone who doesn't live with you. If you plan to see other people keep it outside and very small. Wear a mask the whole time. We must do all that we can to protect one another," Cohen wrote in a press release on Saturday.
Governor Roy Cooper also called on North Carolinians to continue to follow safety guidelines.
"The first two days of this year have broken case count records. These numbers need to be a wake-up call. Wear a mask and follow the safety measures in place to drive down the numbers. It takes all of us doing our part," Cooper wrote in a tweet on Saturday.
The first two days of this year have broken case count records. These numbers need to be a wake up call. Wear a mask and follow the safety measures in place to drive down the numbers. It takes all of us doing our part.— Governor Roy Cooper (@NC_Governor) January 2, 2021
Members of Black Hammer said they plan to host monthly vigils and hope to distribute a million PPE items globally this year.
"We just find it so important to come together as a community and care for one another. We think the coronavirus has exposed a lot of problems that were already here, and we just want to solve as many as we can and understand that we can only do that if we come together and unite," said Suh Hammer, another member of Black Hammer.