Summary: Before he died from symptoms related to COVID-19, a devout Catholic asked his longtime girlfriend for one last favor.
The incident: Every Friday morning, Jorge Guijarro-Castaneda, a devout Catholic born in Mexico, carried a bunch of flowers and placed them at the foot of the Virgin Mary statue at St. Joseph’s Church in Wallula, WA. Then he went to work at the nearby Tyson Fresh Meats plant.
For more than 20 years, Guijarro-Castaneda had labored in the maintenance department at the Tyson plant. He spent most of his time cleaning the facility. His job forced him to circulate throughout the plant and exposed him to many other people, some of whom had the coronavirus.
When Guijarro-Castaneda began to feel sick, he didn’t even consider not working. He told David Mercado, the son of his girlfriend, Betty Pacheco, that he had to remain on the job. He said, “I have to work. They’re not paying me to stay home, you know.”
Eventually, Guijarro-Castaneda felt so ill that he went to the hospital, but his test for COVID-19 came back negative.
The response: A few days later, Guijarro-Castaneda had so much trouble breathing that he returned to the hospital. This time, he tested positive for the coronavirus and he was admitted to the hospital. But his condition worsened, and he died two weeks later.
The aftermath: “He always said he was going to get better, he was going to get better,” said Pacheco. “But I could just tell that he was getting worse.”
On the last Friday of his life, Guijarro-Castaneda called Pacheco and asked for a final favor. He requested that she take a bunch of flowers and place them at the statue of the Virgin Mary in front of St. Joseph’s.
(From the June 29, 2020, issue of Safety Alert for Supervisors. To download the rest of the issue right now, please click here.)