Richard Garay, 27, Southern California resident is tested positive for coronavirus in early June, around the same time his dad also got sick, he said.
Two weeks later, his father, Vidal Garay, died of coronavirus. At least 28 family members have since tested positive, Richard said. The family is grieving and fighting the killer virus at the same time.
On Monday, Richard said in a CNN interview that his family followed quarantine guidelines and protocols.
“I just believe it happened through minimal contact,” he said, adding that his dad visited three households not knowing he was infected and not showing any symptoms.
Some of the interactions lasted no longer than 10 minutes, Richard said.
Richard shares his story on CNN because he wants people to that know the virus is real, and it doesn’t take much to catch it.
Family members who tested positive include his parents, a 2-year-old and two other young children, two brothers and a pregnant sister-in-law, Richard said. A handful of extended family members are also fighting the coronavirus.
“Hopefully his death can help save people,” Richard said. “I don’t want him to be a statistic. If his story can save a life, it’s worth telling his story. It’s real. Doesn’t take long to get exposed.”
“Through my father’s death and our suffering, we can save one life or hundreds or thousands. … I just hope people can hear this message.”
When Richard and his dad contracted the virus, they both decided to quarantine together at home in South Central Los Angeles to avoid spreading it to other family members.
“We laughed in the beginning because we were going through it together,” Richard said.
Then things started to get worse. They started off with a fever, with both having trouble eating and breathing. His dad had a rare form of anemia not related to the virus and started having trouble taking his medication.
“He struggled to even drink his medication. He couldn’t eat. We had no appetite,” he said. “I would force myself to try and eat spoonfuls of soup and tried to force my dad to eat it too.”
A few days into quarantine, Richard called 911 after he woke up gasping for air. Before the paramedics took him to the ER, his dad sat up and asked if he was OK, he said.
“Dad, I don’t think I’m going to make it,” Richard told him. Those were his last words to his dad.
After a few days, his father was taken to a hospital in Los Angeles County, where he took a turn for the worse and had to be put on a ventilator. Meanwhile, Richard was at a separate hospital fighting for his life and on oxygen most of the time — but not on a ventilator.
His dad died on June 20. The day he died, his mother visited the hospital and saw him through a window.
Richard does not know how the other family members got infected— there was no party and no big gathering. They believe one person got infected and it spread through minimal contact among various family members.
Relatives are recovering and planning his father’s funeral, and he has set up a GoFundMe account to help with the various expenses incurred from the illness and pending memorial.