A worker at Mission Foods in Commerce, one company in LA County that was forced to close after coronavirus outbreaks, has died, leaving his daughter to also care for her mother, who tested positive for the virus.
For Alisha Alvarez, the daughter of a high-risk essential worker, receiving the call that her parents had tested positive for COVID-19 was something she had feared for months, especially because of her father.
“On Sunday, [June] 28th, him and my mom went to go get tested and they were both positive,” Alvarez explained. “The minute I got that call, it was heart wrenching.”
Local news from across Southern California
Alvarez had major concerns about her dad, Jose Roberto Alvarez, 67, who was working full-time as the head of the maintenance team at Mission Foods, one of three locations shutdown by LA County Public Health on Sunday for failing to report outbreaks at their facilities.
“We told him, ‘Hey, Dad, you're in a high-risk category. We really have to be careful for you,” Alisha Alvarez recalls telling her father, who lived with diabetes and high blood pressure. “‘You have to tell your employer that you're high risk and you can't be at work,’ and he looked at me and said, 'Baby, I can't or I'll lose my job.'
By July 4, Jose Alvarez was admitted to the hospital.
“He was having fevers, fatigue, a cough, dry throat but then on July 4, he was admitted into the hospital with pneumonia,” Alisha Alvarez said. “Pneumonia quickly turned into ICU and a ventilator for about two weeks.”
Jose Alvarez died from complications of coronavirus, just days before learning from county health officials that his employer, Mission Foods, had failed to disclose as many as 40 people had tested positive for coronavirus.
“To my knowledge it wasn’t explicitly told to them that there were more cases,” Alisha said. “So my dad wasn’t too afraid because he didn’t know what was really going on. He didn’t know of all the cases that were popping up.”
NBC4 and Telemundo52 have made repeated requests to Mission Foods for comment and have not received a response.
By Wednesday, LA County Public Health said the facility at 5505 East Olympic Blvd., was back open. An employee told Telemundo52 that workers were receiving temperature checks before they entered the facility.
“It’s kind of unbelievable that it took this long,” Alisha said. “It’s kind of incredible that they didn’t disclose that there were 40 cases at this facility, however, on the bright side, I am happy that it’s finally out there in the open.”
Alvarez’s mother and sister, who also tested positive, have since tested negative.
The Alvarez family is now vowing to continue Jose’s legacy by continuing to help families in need during the pandemic.
They’re hoping to bring a foundation they started in El Salvador to the United States to help people impacted by the pandemic.
“We started a foundation to help minority families, Latino families, who are struggling due to the pandemic to help them with medical supplies, what we can offer, as well as food,” Alisha explained. “We’re asking people to donate to a GoFundMe, because 100% of these proceeds will go to these families.”
She said she also wants to help other essential workers and their families to understand their rights as workers.
“The reason that we are in this situation now is because we didn’t say anything sooner, but that ends today,” she said. “We are fighting for the rights of people and for everyone who feels that they’re too afraid to tell their employer that they can’t go in. That stops today.”