As confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) continue to rise in the United States, a Filipina-American who recently travelled to the Philippines is reportedly the first COVID-19 fatality in Los Angeles (L.A.) County.
According to a report by the Los Angeles Times, a 68-year-old woman named Loretta traveled to the Philippines with her husband, Roddy, to celebrate their retirement. They left their home in Orlando, Florida for the Philippines on February 4, 2020. They also took a vacation in Thailand.
They returned to the United States on March 8, 2020, with a long layover on Seoul, South Korea, before arriving at the Los Angeles International Airport.
The couple planned to stay with a relative, Roddy’s sister, for a few days before flying back to Florida. But on March 9, Roddy texted their children that he could not wake up their mother and that she did not have a pulse. He tried to revive his wife by performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and chest compressions, according to the L.A. Times. Then, he called 911 and an ambulance rushed Loretta to the hospital.
Loretta, a breast cancer survivor, and a diabetic, was unresponsive but had a weak pulse when she arrived at the hospital. According to her family, she was intubated and was given drugs to keep her heart beating. She went into cardiac arrest four times.
After being placed in isolation, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health had her tested for COVID-19. She passed away the next day, March 10. On March 11, her test results showed that she was positive for the virus.
Husband grieving in isolation
According to the L.A. Times, while Roddy was also isolated and questioned when he arrived in the hospital, he was eventually discharged. His family said that when his wife’s test results came back, doctors told him it was not enough for him to be tested for COVID-19, as he must exhibit the symptoms first. (Learn the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 here.)
In an interview with news channel WKMG/News 6, Rem, one of Roddy’s children said that “They wouldn’t do the testing unless he was in critical condition. It was mind-blowing. I’m like, wait, you’re asking us to take a chance and wait for him to get [worse] before he gets a test.”
“What’s really frustrating is the fact that this is a man who was as close as you can get to the virus and we’re struggling with trying to get him properly tested,” Rem told L.A. Times.
Roddy, who is also a diabetic and takes medication for a heart condition, was ordered to go on self-quarantine for 14 days at his sister’s house and was told to monitor his symptoms. According to his family, he now has a low-grade fever but it is still not high enough to be considered a symptom.
“Just the other night, I talked to him. ... It’s probably the first time he opened up to me about how he was feeling,” Rem told L.A. Times. “And to hear him say he was confused, he feels so alone and he just wants to come home, it hit really hard.”
He adds, “You’re talking about a man that just lost his wife. ... We’ve never experienced anything like this. This is a pandemic that can do this to anybody.”
Roddy’s other relatives, who were also on vacation with the couple, are also on self-quarantine, according to a report by KTLA 5. They are experiencing a slight fever and have developed a cough. But doctors told them that due to a lack of tests, and because they do not have severe symptoms, they would have to go home and self-isolate.
Roddy’s family, who wanted to share their family’s experience with L.A. Times on the condition that their last names be withheld, are awaiting daily updates from his nurse.
In a report by Asia Journal, medical centers in L.A. County are already increasing their capacity for COVID-19 testing, but in most cases, residents are advised to visit their primary care physicians first. If their symptoms fit the COVID-19 spectrum, they will then be referred to testing centers.
As of this writing, there are 351 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in L.A. County and 4 deaths. The total number of confirmed cases in the United States is more than 26,747.