Maria Mercader had been on medical leave for an unrelated matter since late February, according to CBS News
Maria Mercader

Maria Mercader, a journalist and a producer for CBS News, has died from coronavirus at the age of 54, according to an announcement from CBS on Sunday.

The network said Mercader, who had been on medical leave for an unrelated matter since late February, passed away in a hospital in New York.

“Even more than her talents as a journalist, we will miss her indomitable spirit,” Susan Zirinsky, CBS News president and senior executive producer, said in a statement. “Maria was part of all of our lives. Even when she was hospitalized — and she knew something was going on at CBS, she would call with counsel, encouragement, and would say ‘you can do this.’ I called Maria a ‘warrior,’ she was. Maria was a gift we cherished.”

According to the network, Mercader also “fought cancer and related illnesses for more than 20 years, and was an inspiration each time she returned to work after a setback threatened to end her life.”

Maria Mercader
Maria Mercader
| Credit: Facebook

Mercader had been working for CBS for nearly three decades before her death. She initially started at the network in 1987 as part of its page program, going on to work the CBS News foreign and national desks and help produce some of the biggest stories — including the death of Princess Diana and the 9/11 attacks.

In 2004, Mercader won a business reporting Emmy Award for her work in producing a CBS Sunday Morning feature about computer spam.

According to CBS News, Mercader was active in coordinating its participation in the Asian American Journalists Association, the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and the National Association of Black Journalists.

“The Maria we are privileged to call family and friend knew better than most the power of relationships, loyalty, faith, kindness, perseverance and a smile, even when a smile defied the darkness of the moment,” Ingrid Ciprian-Matthews, EVP of Strategic Professional Development at CBS News, said in a statement. “Her notable professional contributions are part of the CBS Archives, but it is her magnificent human spirit that touched so many of us, that will stay with us forever.”

Former CBS News anchor Dan Rather paid tribute to Mercader in a tweet on Sunday, writing, “A hard hit to the heart, news longtime colleague and friend Maria Mercader died from coronavirus. A paragon of grit and grace, she embodied the best of the @CBSNews mission. Millions of Americans learned of the world through her efforts. Now our world is less with her loss. RIP.”

Mercader is survived by her father Manuel and brother Manuel.

The first cases of a mysterious respiratory illness — what is now known as COVID-19, a form of coronavirus — began in Wuhan, China in late December. Since then, the virus has spread worldwide, leading the World Health Organization to declare a public health emergency, the first since the zika epidemic in 2016.

As of Monday afternoon, there have been at least 156,391 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States, with 2,897 deaths from coronavirus-related illness.

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. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.