A 19-year-old from Palmdale, who is raising his young siblings after losing his mom to COVID-19, has advice for people who still believe the pandemic is a hoax as the country moves into the second wave.
Juan Martinez says his family is forever changed by the novel coronavirus, and he’s warning others to take it seriously.
“I hope people take their precautions because it’s no joke," he said.
The whole family caught the virus in August. The five younger kids were all asymptomatic, but Juan got pneumonia, and his mother, 43-year-old Brenda Martinez, died after battling the virus on a ventilator.
“At the beginning I was upset. I would cry and say, 'no way.' I couldn’t believe it," he said.
Juan said telling his brothers and sisters their mom passed away was the hardest thing he’s ever had to do.
But since then, Juan lost custody of his 2-year-old brother to the boy’s father. The other kids are struggling to deal with the loss of their mom.
“The hardest part is to try not to cry. And not to worry,” Ramiro Martinez, 7, said.
Juan had to quit his job as a security guard to take care of his family, and still fights lingering fatigue from his own battle with COVID-19. But they’re getting by.
“He takes very good care of us," Valentine Martinez, 8, said.
Now, as infections and hospitalizations are rising across the country, Juan has a warning for those who still call it a hoax.
“If people say that it’s because it hasn’t happened to them. But it’s real. It’s really out there. It hit us hard. I’d hate for another family to go through what we went through," he said.
Juan is now a full-time dad to his brothers and sisters, cooking and cleaning and helping them with online school.