LAKE ELSINORE, Calif. — After months of diligently isolating, truck driver Tommy Macias, 51, made one error that cost him his life. He went to a barbecue party with some friends.
He didn’t know that someone who had tested positive for COVID-19, but showed no symptoms, also was there.
“It was all preventable,” said Gustavo Lopez, Macias’ 52-year-old brother-in-law. “That person knew he had corona and still went. He should have known better, and that one mistake cost (Macias) his life.”
More than 10 others who attended that gathering have tested positive for the coronavirus, Lopez said.
According to Macias’ family members, the Lake Elsinore man had practiced social distancing, limited his outside interactions and wore a mask whenever he went out. But as restrictions slowly lifted, the proud big rig driver who “could never sit still in his life” felt safe going out again.
As first reported by the Valley News, Macias fell ill on June 15, but assumed it was caused by his diabetes. He then tested positive for COVID-19.
Immediately, Lopez feared the worst.
“Everyone knew it wasn’t going to end well,” he said. “There was a high probability he wasn’t going to make it.”
A day before his death on June 21, Macias posted a warning on Facebook, urging people to wear a mask and practice social distancing. His final message was one of regret.
“Because of my stupidity I put my mom and sisters and my family’s health in jeopardy,” the post reads. “Don’t be a … idiot like me.”
Macias’ 53-year-old sister, Norma Macias Norris, respected how her brother took full responsibility.
“It’s just who he is. He wanted to make sure he didn’t want anybody to continue on with anger,” she said.
At first, Macias seemed to be recovering during the week after he suddenly fell ill, which gave his family hope. But by that Sunday morning, he had taken a turn for the worse. He called his mother and his three sisters to say that he could not breathe.
“I could hear it in his voice, he was terrified,” Macias Norris said.
Macias Norris rushed to her brother’s home, just five minutes from her own, but was too late. The ambulance attendants had put him inside and shut the doors.
She followed them to the hospital but was told she could not stay.
“No one was allowed to be with him. All I wanted to do was sit by his bedside,” she said. “I spoke with him over the phone that day. He was heavily breathing and crying, but his last words to me were ‘I want to go home, Sis., I want to go home, Sis.’”
In 10 hours, Macias was put on a ventilator to try to raise his oxygen intake.
By 9 that night, Macias Norris received a call from the hospital with the news that her brother had died. The Riverside County coroner’s office confirmed Macias’ death was COVID-19-related.
Macias’ niece, Danielle Lopez, 28, was devastated by the news. She hadn’t seen him in months, but frequently texted and called her uncle.
She would never forget his “big booming laugh” that could be heard from across the house and his huge smile, she said. And in the days following his death, friends and extended family reached out to her offering to help because they knew Macias — who called them every week — would have done the same for them.
At this time last year, Lopez said, she would spend afternoons barbecuing with her family or relaxing in a boat on Lake Elsinore.
Lopez’s family in Mission Viejo was already preparing to move to the area to be closer to Macias.
Macias Norris, who was excited to have her family come together a year after their father passed away, was heartbroken that her brother would not be around for it.
“It’s going to be difficult driving these streets. The city just doesn’t feel the same anymore,” she said.
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