SACRAMENTO – Esutosin Omowale Osunkoya (born Charles L. Brunson), 76,  was buried at the Sacramento Valley National Cemetery in Dixon on April 21, before a small contingent of family members.

Sacramento’s Morgan Jones Funeral Home presided over the service.

Margo Brunson of Sacramento holds up a consent form used in a remdesivir study conducted at UC Medical Center.

Bruson — a founding member of the Sacramento branch of the Black Panther Party — passed away from complications of COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, on Monday, April 13, at UC Davis Medical Center.

Brunson’s wife Margo Rose Brunson was also infected with the disease, but thanks to a study in which she participated, the medical staff at UC Davis Medical Center was able to help her shake loose the virus and live to tell the tale.

The day after Mr. Brunson was admitted, Ms. Brunson was diagnosed as positive. She agreed to take a 10-day study conducted by UC Davis Medical Center’s Infectious Diseases department.

Ms. Bruson was not hooked to a ventilator during her treatment, but she was administered oxygen during her stay. However, she was treated with the drug remdesivir. At the time Ms. Brunson was one of 20 patients administered the drug. 

“The study works,” Ms. Brunson said at her South Sacramento home. “Sometimes you have to take a chance. What’s really going on is not that bad. Remdesivir is not a vaccine but it’s a helpful treatment. This is our reality.”

Ms. Bruson said she had an infusion of remdesivir at the UCD Medical Center to see how her body would respond to the medicine. Blood was also extracted from her left arm to conduct the study.

The medical staff offered her a one-day study but she opted for the 10-day cycle instead. Upon release, Ms. Brunson said she is still in contact with the medical team conducting the study.

“That medicine fought that virus out of my system,” Ms. Brunson told OBSERVER on April 15 of her reaction to remdesivir. “People must take this virus seriously. I can’t tell you how we were infected. But I will tell you to practice social distancing if you want to live.” 

“Remdesivir works by mimicking one of the genetic elements that the COVID-19 virus, known as SARS-CoV-2, uses to make more copies of itself. The substitute blocks the virus from copying its genome, jamming up the viral copy machine,” Time.com reported in its “More Encouraging Signs for Remdesivir as COVID-19 Treatment” article on April 17. 

On the other side of the prescription counter, the drug is not yet approved for treating any diseases, the article says.  Medical doctors cannot use it “off label” to treat COVID-19 patients. 

But in Ms. Brunson’s case and others who participated in the study, medical experts can ask the manufacturer to provide the drug on a “compassionate use” basis to treat the sickest patients who have no other treatment options, the Time.com article stated.

The clinical trial continues to get desired results across the country. Medical researchers at University of Chicago revealed hopeful results from a limited study of remdesivir in treating people with severe COVID-19.

Earlier this week, reports of the study yielded positive reviews from epidemiological experts, citing that remdesivir is highly effective in halting the mechanism of coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

A statement by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIAID, says remdesivir, created by Gilead Sciences, had shown a recovery time at 31 percent in patients.

“Specifically, the median time to recovery was 11 days for patients treated with remdesivir compared with 15 days for those who received placebo,” NIAID said in the written statement.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, epidemiologist expert and the director of NIAID, said in Washington that information returning in the study shows the drug “truly, high-powered” trial involving multiple sites around the world.

Ms. Brunson is in a group of 1,900-plus individuals currently participating in the trial worldwide and in the pool of the patients that have recovered in 11 days or less. The results of the study, Dr. Fauci said, is in the data. 

“The data shows that remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time of recovery,” Dr. Fauci said. “Although 31 percent improvement doesn’t seem like a knockout 100 percent, it is important proof of concept because what it has proven is that the drug can block the virus.”

Dr. Errol Byer Jr. an African American graduate from Syracuse University and Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, D.C., is slowly learning about the usage and the effects of remisidivir at The Brooklyn Hospital Center (TBHC) in Brooklyn, New York.

Dr. Byer recently delivered a child from one of his COVID-19 patients. He and his medical team treated the mother-to-be with remdesivir who are both healthy after the delivery. He told MSNBC reporter Katy Tur on April 22 that the medicine is still under review but it is showing its effectiveness.

“While it is an antiviral medication we’re not sure what benefits it will have on covid sulf,” Dr. Byer told Tur. “But being that there were no other alternatives we use remdesivir just to see if would be helpful with patients.”

Dr. Byer is also currently Clinical Director of Women’s Health Services and Program Director for the department’s OB/GYN residency program. He has been on the faculty at TBHC for two decades, and has authored many medical publications. 

Dr. Byer is board-certified in obstetrics-gynecology who never thought he would be in the middle of a pandemic to deliver babies.

“No, you really can’t prepare for this,” Dr. Byer said. “We know all the science, we know what to do, and the challenges that may occur day to day in obstetrics-gynecology. But when a new novel virus and a pandemic occur you’re not sure how each patient (will respond). I never thought covid would have come and have so much severity in our population.”


By Antonio R. Harvey | OBSERVER Staff Writer