Four months ago, 19-year-old Jose Martinez was a regular high school student.
Today, he is the sole caregiver and provider for four of his five young siblings, including one with special needs all after their single mother died from COVID-19.
"A caring person, she loved to take us out, she loved to help others.
I just tell them that she’s in a better place and she’s always with them." His mother – 42-year-old Brenda Martinez – tested positive in mid-August.
Jose watched – from a distance – as hospital staff tried to save her life.
"I was able to watch them on Zoom.
I actually witnessed them giving her CPR and when they checked for a pulse there wasn't any." In the last three months, Martinez has had to learn how to take care of his siblings and manage a home.
"At the beginning, it was pretty hard.
There is stuff I had to get used to, like managing bills and stuff, but after weeks went by, I started to get hang of it." With support from his uncle and grandfather, Martinez spends most of his days preparing meals, helping his siblings navigate school online, and doing his best to be there for them.
RAMIRO MARTINEZ: “I just want to say that I like her cooking and I like when she cooks for me every time I asked her.” The family is now dependent on aid from the government, and the generosity of thousands of people who have donated more than $130,000 to the family's GoFundMe account.
“I've applied for welfare and that's somewhat helped and the GoFundMe, that's helped a lot also and I'm usually using that money for their education in the future, and I want to get a permanent home.” Martinez says his family was very cautious when the virus broke out and still doesn't know how they caught it.
But he warns people not to take it lightly.
"Take every precaution, because I know there is people who also think that it's false, it really isn't, it took the life of our mother.”