When a COVID-19 patient on her ward stopped breathing, nurse Celia Marcos rushed into his room to help the "code blue" patient without stopping to try to obtain a scarce N95 face mask. She died of the disease 14 days later in the hospital where she worked for more than 16 years, Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center. Colleagues at the hospital tell the Los Angeles Times that while the 61-year-old was undoubtedly selfless, she might not have died if the hospital had provided the appropriate personal protective equipment. "The hospital wasn’t giving us appropriate PPE—the N95s were locked," one nurse says. "It’s just too painful for everybody, what happened to her." Colleagues say Marcos, who oversaw a ward that took coronavirus patients when the COVID-19 units were full, was not given an N95 mask at the start of her shift.
Marcos, with only a regular surgical mask for protection, stayed in the patient's room for around 30 minutes. She began feeling ill three days later. Her union has filed a complaint with state authorities, saying her death was the result of inadequate protective gear provided to staff. "Celia was called to a COVID-19 isolation room while wearing only a surgical mask—not the required N95 respirator, gown, face shield, and booties that her hospital should have given her," SEIU 121 President Nina Wells tells the Times. The nurse's son, John Marcos, says her death, without family by her side, was "heartbreaking." "I want people to remember she’s not just a regular nurse," he tells KTLA. “She went above and beyond and she made the ultimate sacrifice unfortunately.” At least 35 other health care workers in California have died of COVID-19. (Read more coronavirus stories.)