COMMERCE (CBSLA) — The family of a 67-year-old man who died from COVID-19 said Wednesday that they believe his death could have been prevented.
“He was in the hospital, in the ICU on a ventilator, and we prayed and sent all of our positive energy hoping he would get out of this,” Alisha Alvarez said of her father. “And we really thought he would.”
But, in the end, Jose Roberto Alvarez Mena died from COVID-19 July 20.
“He was the sole provider for my mom, my mom’s partner of 35 years and our dad,” Alvarez said. “So it was truly devastating.”
And almost a week after Mena’s death, the family learned there had been a COVID-19 outbreak at Mission Foods where he worked, but the employees were never notified.
“It meant that not every precaution was taken, and this probably could have been avoided,” Alvarez said.
In a statement, a Mission Foods spokesperson said following a preventive closure of the facility on July 27, the company resumed normal operations the following day.
“During this brief closure period, we worked closely with the Department of Public Health to review and explain our comprehensive COVID-19 protocols and procedures to protect the health and safety of our employees,” said Regional Director of Manufacturing Paul de la O. “We continue to collaborate with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to make sure we are in full compliance with all requirements and safety protocols and to do our part in helping contain the spread of COVID-19 in the community.”
Alvarez said her father, who was head of maintenance, suffered from diabetes and high blood pressure, making him high risk for severe complications. She said her mother and sister also contracted the illness.
On Monday, Los Angeles County health officials confirmed that 40 employees had tested positive for coronavirus at the Mission Foods Facility in Commerce. The company, known for its popular tortilla products, was forced to shut down the facility after the health department said the company failed to notify the county of an outbreak.
“It got bad enough that my dad lost his life, and that means that other people were infected,” Alvarez said. “And that means that other families are suffering.”
By Wednesday, the county allowed the facility to reopen. Employees were seen walking out with masks and, on the company’s website, it states that employees were subjected to temperature checks and increased cleaning protocols had been put in place.
“We remain in constant communication with our employees and are committed to ensuring their safety at all times,” the company said in a statement.
Alvarez believes that if that was true when her father was working, he would still be alive.
“Without employees there is no company,” Alvarez said. “So taking those extra precautions really could have saved lives.”
The Alvarez family has started a foundation to honor Mena that will help minority families struggling during the pandemic by providing food and essentials. They also said they hope his story will help other essential workers speak up about experiencing unsafe working conditions.