Baltimore ICU Doctor, Whose Husband Begged Him to Stay Home, Dies of Coronavirus

Dr. Joseph Costa's "memory will live on as an example to us all," the Mercy Medical Center said in a statement

Dr. Joseph Costa
Dr. Joseph Costa. Photo: Mercy Medical Center

A Baltimore ICU doctor has died as a result of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) after selflessly helping patients despite his husband's pleas that he stay home. He was 56.

Dr. Joseph Costa died on Saturday morning following complications from the contagious respiratory virus, his hospital, the Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland, shared on Facebook over the weekend.

Costa's husband, David Hart, told The Washington Post that the dedicated physician died in his arms, surrounded by about 20 of his colleagues at the hospital.

"I begged him not to go to work," Hart told the outlet, explaining that Costa had a rare autoimmune disorder, but felt it was important to lead his staff by continuing to work on the front lines.

Both Costa and Hart got sick with COVID-19 in late June, the Post reported. But while Hart eventually recovered, Costa ended up in the hospital on a ventilator and later in a coma.

"Joe was more than a trusted colleague; he was also a true friend to many," the hospital's statement on Costa's death said. Costa first began working at Mercy Medical Center in 1997 and became chief of critical care in 2005.

"He dedicated his life and career to caring for the sickest patients," the hospital's statement said. "And when the global pandemic came down upon us, Joe selflessly continued his work on the front lines — deeply committed to serving our patients and our City during this time of great need. His memory will live on as an example to us all."

A spokesperson for Mercy Medical Center did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

Hart told the Post that his husband's death brings into even sharper focus the need to follow recommendations that will prevent the spread of the virus.

"When you see people without masks, you think, 'Are you out of your mind?'" he said, adding, "this disease will take you out in a heartbeat."

The Centers for Disease Control says that everyone should wear a face-covering in public and maintain six feet between yourself and others.

Maryland has had 85,524 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19, with 648 in the past day, according to data from the state's department of health. Nationwide, there have been more than 4 million reported cases of COVID-19.

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