California family lost father to coronavirus, 28 family members became infected, son says


About two weeks later, her father, Vidal Garay, died of Covid-19. At least 28 family members have tested positive since then, Garay said. The family is dealing with pain as they fight a virus that has killed more than 125,000 people across the country.

Garay, 27, told CNN that he wants to share his family’s story so that people know that the virus is real and that it doesn’t take much to detect it.

Family members who tested positive include her parents, a 2-year-old boy and two other young children, two brothers and a pregnant sister-in-law, she said. A handful of extended family members are also fighting Covid-19.

Her 60-year-old father died a day before Father’s Day.

“Hopefully his death can help save people,” said young Garay. “I don’t want it to be a statistic. If your story can save a life, it’s worth telling. It’s real. It doesn’t take long to expose yourself.”

His last words to his father.

When father and son contracted the virus, they decided to quarantine them together at home in south-central Los Angeles to avoid spreading it to other family members.

Richard Garay, third from right, with members of his family.

“We laughed at first because we were having it together,” said the son.

Then things started going downhill. They started with a fever that progressively worsened, with trouble breathing and eating, Garay said. Her father had a rare form of anemia not related to the virus, and began to have trouble taking his medicine.

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“He even struggled to take his medicine. He couldn’t eat. We had no appetite,” said Garay. “He made me try to eat tablespoons and I tried to force my dad to eat it too.”

During their joint quarantine to pass the time, they discussed death and what they wanted their funerals to be like, Garay said.

The son’s condition worsens

A few days after the quarantine, young Garay called 911 after waking up breathless. Before paramedics took him to the hospital, his father sat down and asked if he was okay, he said.

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“Dad, I don’t think I’m going to make it,” Garay told him. Those were his last words to his father.

Days later, they took their father to a Los Angeles County hospital, where he got worse and had to put him on a respirator. Meanwhile, her son was in a separate hospital fighting for his life and oxygen most of the time, but not with a ventilator.

Her father died on June 20. The day she died, her mother visited the hospital and saw her through a window, Garay said.

Garay does not know how family members contracted the coronavirus: there was no party or large gathering. They believe that a person became infected and spread through minimal contact between various family members.

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