28 Members of a California Family Contracted Coronavirus — and Beloved Grandfather Died

Vidal Garay, 60, died in the hospital one day before Father's Day

Vidal Garay Garcia
Vidal Garay Garcia. Photo: GoFundMe

A California man is sharing his family’s coronavirus story in an effort to show how easily it can spread — and take lives.

Richard Garay, 27, began experiencing symptoms of the virus in late May, and both he and his father, Vidal Garay, 60, tested positive for COVID-19 on June 4, according to CBSLA.

“Within days, our health just deteriorated,” he told the outlet, noting that his father also had a rare form of anemia and had recently battled with leukemia. “It went from, you know, one day being OK to I can’t breathe, I can’t get up, I cannot eat.”

In an effort to prevent the virus from further spread within their family, the pair decided to quarantine together, CNN reported. One night, Richard woke up with difficulty breathing and had to be hospitalized.

Days later, his father was taken to a separate hospital and put on a ventilator. On June 20, the day before Father’s Day, Vidal died.

He is survived by his wife of 34 years, who was also sickened by the virus and has since recovered, as well as three sons, and four grandchildren.

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Although Richard, who has since been released from the hospital, says the family is still unsure how they contracted COVID-19 in the first place, a total of 28 family members fell ill.

In addition to himself and his parents, three young children and a pregnant sister-in-law are among those in the family who have tested positive, according to CNN. The majority are recovering at home.

"Hopefully his death can help save people," he told the outlet. "I don't want him to be a statistic. If his story can save a life, it's worth telling his story. It's real. Doesn't take long to get exposed."

A GoFundMe has been created to help cover funeral expenses.

“Vidal was an amazing person. He was a father, friend, husband, brother and a grandfather of 4 small children. Vidal touched the lives of those around him and always made people smile,” his son wrote in a touching message. “He was a fighter, a role model, and never quit.”

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.

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