Sharing his regret on Facebook, Thomas Macías focused on his loved ones.
“Because of my stupidity, I endangered the health of my mother and my sisters and my family,” wrote the California trucker in a post his family shared with The Washington Post. He had gone out to a party where no one was wearing masks, his niece Danielle Lopez said, only to find out after someone knowingly assisted with the new coronavirus, seemingly mistakenly reasoning that without symptoms, she couldn’t harm anyone.
But Macías, 51, was also at risk, made more vulnerable by his diabetes and weight, López said. The morning after that June 20 Facebook post, he called his mother to tell him he couldn’t breathe. She told him to run to the hospital.
At 9 p.m., according to the family, he had died.
Perhaps, Lopez said, his uncle would not have gone out if his southern California county had not reopened and if people had not thought that the threat of the virus was being alleviated.
“It was absolutely avoidable,” López told the Post.
The family says Macías was diligent for months to minimize his trips outside the home, knowing that his health conditions made him vulnerable. But Macías was also a social creature, they said, calling his mother every day and eager to see his loved ones.
“He made friends wherever he went,” like his father, his uncle Ricardo Macías told The Post on Facebook Messenger.
“You could hear him coming from a mile away when he was laughing,” said Lopez, who was looking forward to moving 10 minutes from his uncle next week.
California was also starting to come out of the shutdown when Macías would have been considering attending the party. Macías said it came out a couple of weeks before its Facebook post on June 20.
Riverside County, where he lived in Lake Elsinore, was approved in late May to enter Phase 2 of the California reopening process, which meant that people could return to shopping malls and dine at restaurants. Gyms, nail salons and more followed in June.
The coronavirus situation in Riverside, however, worsened that month. On June 17, the Desert Sun reported, the county entered a state watch list after cases increased and hospitalizations increased 19% in three days. Riverside is now among the 19 counties, covering more than 70% of California’s population, which Governor Gavin Newsom, D, announced this week that it would have to close a large swath of business as the state breaks its records for new and known cases of coronavirus reported every day.
Even before Macías’ death, López said: “We thought it was a mistake to open so soon … there is still no vaccine, there is still nothing to fight against this.”
“We shouldn’t have opened to begin with,” he said.
It is unclear how many people attended the party Macias attended in Lake Elsinore, where he lived about an hour’s drive southeast of Los Angeles. López said her family heard from Macías that a friend who also attended later came up to say that everyone should be tested, because that person went despite having a diagnosis of coronavirus.
At least, Lopez said, the friend should have worn a mask, a precaution that California ordered two days before Macias’ Facebook post and has now been adopted by leaders across the political spectrum. Lopez said his uncle had previously worn a mask, but seemed to think “it was no longer necessary”, especially among friends.
She knows that people are still resistant to masks, and that frustrates her.
“I honestly don’t understand why people find it so difficult,” Lopez said.
Macías said he was tested for the virus on June 15 and had a positive result three days later. He was soon relaying his mistake to hundreds of Facebook friends.
“This is not a joke,” he wrote to them. “If you have to go out, wear a mask and practice social distancing.”
Don’t be an “idiot like me,” he said.
He ended with: “I hope with God’s help I can survive this.”
The Post was unable to immediately verify Macías’ cause of death with authorities. The Riverside County Office of Vital Records confirmed to NBC that he died of covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Now his family is raising funds for the funeral on a GoFundMe page, where some donors say they have no connection to Macías beyond the shared pain of the coronavirus or the gratitude of reading his final warning to his friends.
“I don’t know Tommy or your family, but be reassured knowing that his post is likely to save lives,” wrote one person who made a contribution of $ 20.
López said that masks and social distancing will be required on July 10 at the Sun City service, where there will be no hugs and people will be asked to pay their respects quickly and then leave the room.