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Elizabeth Warren’s oldest brother has died of coronavirus

Her brother’s death turns a political fight personal for the former presidential candidate.

Elizabeth Warren was recently inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City. She was accompanied by her three older brothers; John Herring, left, Don Herring, middle, and David Herring, right.
Darren Durlach/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s oldest brother, Donald Reed Herring, died on Tuesday night, three weeks after testing positive for Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Warren shared the news in a short, photo-filled Twitter thread Thursday, praising her 86-year-old brother for serving in the Air Force and being “charming and funny, a natural leader.”

“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 tweeted Thursday. “I’ll miss you dearly my brother.”

According to the Boston Globe, Herring flew B-47 and B-52 bombers, completing 288 combat missions in Vietnam. A lifelong Republican, Warren’s brother nevertheless agreed with her on some political fundamentals, she said. Herring, along with Warren’s two other brothers, John and David Herring, who are also conservatives, even appeared in a Warren ad during her run for the Democratic nomination for president.

Her brother’s death makes the political fight over the government’s response to the ongoing pandemic a personal one for Warren, who has rolled out several proposals to deal with the pandemic fallout.

In January, Warren was the first presidential candidate to release a coronavirus plan; she put out a second one in March. In an April 6 interview with Vox’s Ezra Klein, Warren stressed the need for more testing capacity in the US, something the country is still struggling with.

“We need enough test kits not just to test people who are showing raging symptoms, but enough test kits to be able to test people who appear to be healthy, so you can keep detecting it in the population and identify hot spots,” she said. “We’ve got to keep our doctors and nurses safe. They need personal protective equipment. And we need to have enough test kits so that we’re testing not just people who are being admitted to the hospital or showing high fevers, but we’re testing in the population on a regular basis. That’s our best chance in dealing with it.”

Warren’s coronavirus plans have kept coming, even as her brother struggled with the virus. On April 15, Warren and Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN) released a $50 billion plan to help the child care industry, which has taken a massive hit with so many states still under shelter-at-home orders. The plan was much more ambitious than the $3.5 billion set aside in the second round of stimulus funding passed by Congress.

Another Warren plan, this time partnering with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), was released on April 21 and proposes to help Americans who are drowning in debt with no job or income to repay their loans. In the three weeks before the release of the plan, 22 million Americans had filed initial claims for unemployment, and a Pew survey released Wednesday indicated that 53 percent of lower-income Americans wouldn’t be able to pay all their bills in April.