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Woman uses butterflies to memorialize each Michigan COVID-19 death

The installation pays tribute to each person who has died from coronavirus in Michigan.
Credit: Michigan Papillon Project

A Detroit-area woman is using butterflies and her front yard to memorialize the 2,200 Michiganders who have lost their lives because of coronavirus. 

Mo Portello started the project because she said seeing the number of deaths in the headlines doesn't show the impact. She wanted "to recognize the people lost, and give a tangible, physical representation of the number in a way for people to comprehend."

So far, Portello has put more than 200 butterflies in her yard as a tribute to the victims of the virus. She started the Michigan Papillon Project with the help of social media, gathering names and stories of those who died from their friends and family members. 

"One by one," she said. "It's heartbreaking." 

While the memorial is currently installed in Portello's downriver Detroit yard, she hopes to move it to a more public place after the stay at home order is lifted. 

Michigan has the third highest number of coronavirus deaths in the country. The current fatality rate is about 7%, which state health officials say will drop as testing becomes more widely available. 

It's been one month since Michigan reported its first COVID-19 death. 

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