Family Says California Nurse Who Died from COVID-19 Had Only Surgical Mask Instead of N95 Mask

A 61-year-old nurse in California died last month, two weeks after risking her own safety to help a patient with the novel coronavirus.

On April 3, Celia Marcos, a charge nurse at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, rushed to help a patient who had tested positive for COVID-19 after he stopped breathing, according to The Los Angeles Times.

At the time, she was only wearing a surgical mask and not the more protective N95 mask, according to her son John Marcos, who has created a GoFundMe to help pay for expenses. Hospital staff told the Times that she was not given an N95 mask at the start of her shift, as they were in limited supply.

Marcos began feeling ill three days later and was admitted to the hospital where she had worked for over a decade on April 15, having developed pneumonia and tested positive for the virus. She died two days later.

“It was definitely heartbreaking… She passed away alone, without family by her side,” her son John told KTLA. “At least there were coworkers who knew her.”

“I want people to remember she’s not just a regular nurse,” he added. “She went above and beyond and she made the ultimate sacrifice unfortunately.”

Last week, representatives from a local nurses union filed a complaint with the state Occupational Safety and Health Administration, calling Marcos’ death “the result of inadequate PPE provided to staff,” The Los Angeles Times reports. In a separate complaint, the union alleged Marcos did not receive adequate treatment.

“Celia was called to a COVID-19 isolation room while wearing only a surgical mask — not the required N95 respirator, gown, face shield, and booties that her hospital should have given her for her protection,” SEIU 121 President Nina Wells said in a statement to the outlet. “Now we know she gave her life to try to save a life.”

Hospital officials have denied that Marcos was not given proper PPE, and said that the hospital follows all local and federal guidelines.“Despite these efforts, and our commitment to following all guidelines, we still lost one of our own to this terrible virus, and we feel this loss very deeply,” administrators said in a statement to the newspaper.

Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

A candlelit vigil to honor Marcos was held outside the hospital last Wednesday.

"She was always the one to offer help," John wrote in a note which was read by a hospital worker, according to KABC. "Others' happiness was always her priority. We all felt it."

“Even though you were not able to be with her at the time of her passing, all of us were there with her,” a nurse attending the vigil told her son, CBSLA reported. “And she was never alone.”

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