The virus targets the heart, lung and kidneys, organs already weakened in many diabetes patients. COVID-19 also kills more people who are elderly, obese or have high blood pressure, many of whom also have diabetes, studies show. On the microscopic level, high glucose and lipid counts in diabetes patients can trigger a “cytokine storm,” when the immune system overreacts, attacking the body. Damaged endothelial cells, which provide a protective lining in blood vessels, can lead to inflammation as white blood cells rush to attack the virus and may cause lethal clots to form, emerging research suggests.
Robert Washington, 68, knew his diabetes put him at risk from COVID-19. When his employer, Gila River’s Lone Butte Casino in Chandler, Arizona, reopened in May, he decided to keep working as a security guard so he could afford insulin.
Washington’s supervisors had assured him he could patrol alone in a golf cart, said his daughter, Lina. But once back at work, he was stationed at the entrance, where long lines of gamblers waited, most without masks, Robert told his daughter.
“He was terrified at what he saw,” Lina said.
He tested positive for the virus in late May and was admitted to the hospital days later. He died from complications of COVID-19 on June 11, his daughter said.
A week after Washington’s death, the casino again closed as COVID-19 cases exploded in the state. The casino did not respond to a request for comment.
“It’s hard to accept he is gone. I have to stop myself from wanting to call him,” said Lina, a sports anchor and reporter at a Sacramento, California, TV station. “A lot of these deaths were in some way preventable.”