Richard Garay was the first member of his Los Angeles family to develop coronavirus symptoms in May, and soon the virus spread throughout most of his family. Garay said 27 others in his family tested positive for COVID-19, including his father, 60-year-old Vidal Gravy. While most of his family members have since recovered from the disease, Vidal died the day before Father's Day.
Garay told KTLA he first had a runny nose, then a headache, which developed into a "full-blown fever." Around that time, Vidal became sick as well. "It was painful to watch my dad’s health declined so drastically in front of me," Garay said. "My father is my best friend." When Garay's symptoms became worse, they took coronavirus tests, which came back positive.
The last words Garay spoke to his father were "Dad, I don't think I'm going to make it." It was the last time he saw his father. Garay recovered, as did many of his other family members who tested positive. Garay said his children and his brother's pregnant wife tested positive for the coronavirus. Sadly, Garay's father passed away.
"I don’t want my father’s death to be in vain," Garay said, adding that he wants people to "understand" that the coronavirus is real. "If you think it’s fake, you’re going to continue to do what you’re doing and not protect yourself," he said. "You don’t want to be in a position where you find yourself in a hospital bed … before it’s too late."
In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Garay explained that his father likely contracted the coronavirus first when he visited a hospital for the blood transfusions he required every week due to sideroblastic anemia and myelodysplastic syndrome. When his father first became sick, his family did not think it was due to the coronavirus because Vidal "always felt sick," he explained.
Although Garay and his father self-isolated, he believed the virus may have spread when his uncle visited in mid-May to pick up gardening tools. His aunt also interacted with his father and possibly spread the virus to her family. Garay does not believe the virus could have spread at his father's 60th birthday party in May because only immediate family members who lived at their house were there. They did hire a mariachi band, but they followed social distancing guidelines.
Garay hopes his family's experience with the coronavirus will inspire people to take it seriously. "Nobody likes to wear a mask. I don't like to wear a mask because I feel like I can't breathe," he told BuzzFeed News. "But if it's going to save the life of somebody, I'm going to wear the damn mask." Garay's family also started a GoFundMe page to raise money for his father's funeral expenses.