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A family of seven lost everything in the Malden fire. Then, they contracted COVID-19

The Grahams believe they contracted coronavirus after staying with family members following the wildfire. They unknowingly infected another family who helped them.

MALDEN, Wash. — A family of seven who suffered an unimaginable tragedy is facing yet another obstacle in coronavirus diagnoses.

Jessica and Matthew Graham, along with their five children, lost their home and everything inside of it when a devastating wildfire ripped through Malden, Washington, on Labor Day. 

The family was out of town when the fire sparked on Sept. 7 and a friend communicated with them about its path. 

When they heard that Malden's library and post office caught fire, they began to lose hope that their house would be spared. Then, their friend sent a text message with devastating news: their home was a total loss. 

Thankfully, the family's dog and chickens survived. 

Jessica said she was in shock when she first heard the news about their home of five years.  

RELATED: Malden, Pine City officially apply for individual FEMA assistance

“It just felt like a bad dream at first," Jessica said of losing the family's home.

In total, 80 percent of Malden's homes were lost in the fire.

Graham family contracts COVID-19 after losing home

The family's nightmare didn't end with the loss of their home. They stayed with Jessica's parents, who became sick with flu-like symptoms but were not tested for COVID-19. 

Matthew's mother then watched the Graham children for an afternoon, and later began experiencing coronavirus symptoms before receiving a positive test result. 

The Grahams also unknowingly infected a family of nine people who had them over for dinner, Jessica said.  

“It’s horrible realizing that they reached out to us and have been so welcoming to us, and we spread it [coronavirus] to them," she added.

Matthew, Jessica and their five children tested positive for COVID-19 about one week ago. They are now quarantining at a hotel in Spokane Valley. 

The illness began with several days of cold-like symptoms for both Matthew and Jessica before the onset of exhaustion. They also lost their sense of taste, though some of it has returned. 

"...I was hit with just this crazy fatigue where I’m just exhausted all the time pretty much and just lie in bed because it just takes too much energy to move," Matthew said. 

Jessica described experiencing similar fatigue, though her condition is beginning to improve. 

"I’d wake up, drink a few cups of coffee and not much after that be hit with this overwhelming need to sleep," she said. 

The couple encouraged people to continue taking coronavirus seriously and seek testing if they experience symptoms. 

"Before our house burned down, we were being really good about isolating and not having that much contact with other people and wearing masks and stuff. And this thing is totally miserable and you really do not want to catch coronavirus," Matthew said.

The coronavirus diagnosis has also hampered the family's plans to search for a new home. They were supposed to look at several houses but canceled those plans when they found out Matthew's mother tested positive for COVID-19. 

“At this point, we really don’t have any plans. All that we have are questions that lead to more questions, and no answers anywhere to be found," Matthew said. 

Family remains hopeful amid outpouring of support

Despite the grim realities of losing their home and contracting COVID-19, the family remains hopeful and is grateful for the support they have received.

Hundreds of people have donated nearly $18,000 to a GoFundMe campaign to replace items that the family lost. Their home was insured. 

A friend also set up a meal train to help the family while they are in quarantine. 

Credit: Courtesy
Matthew and Jessica Graham's five children

“It’s been just amazing, the community outpouring, like people that we barely know or we don’t know at all who have reached out and offered to help us, so that part has been amazing just realizing how much support we do have," Jessica said. 

RELATED: No-Li Brewhouse raises $75,000 so far for Malden, Pine City wildfire victims

The ability to start over is also helping the Graham family remain positive. Matthew and his wife have told their children they will eventually have a new place to call home. 

“Right now, we are kind of at the happy end of hell and things are going to get so much better and we’re going to get through all of this together," Matthew said. "...This has been the most trying time in our lives and hopefully it’ll be the most trying time in their lives as well, but we’re going to get through this as a family and we’re going to move forward." 

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