SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - As loved ones mourns the COVID-19 death of a father of four, new numbers are sparking concerns about COVID surge this winter.
Danny Mendez, a Chollas View resident, first started feeling sick on October 23, testing positive for COVID-19.
“His first symptoms were a headaches, diarrhea and then fever,” said Edith Sanchez Cruz, Mendez’s cousin.
Cruz, says a week and a half later, he started having trouble breathing. An ambulance rushed him to a hospital.
“Within a couple of hours, were were told he was intubated. Shortly after, his heart rate slowed down, and then we were told he had passed,” said Cruz.
Mendez, a father of four, including a 3-year-old, passed away at the age of 36.
“I grew up with him, so there are so many memories,” said a tearful Cruz. “We are heartbroken. He always had a big smile, funny, loving and caring.”
Cruz says Mendez, who worked for a landscaping company was a devoted family man, who was not vaccinated.
“It was just so new and his fear of needles probably played a role in that,” said Cruz.
Mendez's death comes amid a spike in COVID hospitalizations in Riverside, San Bernardino and Fresno counties, where vaccination rates are lower. Hospitalization rates are up by more than 20% in recent weeks.
That is sparking concerns those numbers could be a precursor to a winter surge in San Diego and other counties across the state.
Health officials have warned of a potential rise in COVID-19 as seniors who got their vaccine last winter and haven't received a booster, see their immunity wane.
As winter approaches, members of one grieving family are making an appeal.
“Understand that COVID is still here. Get vaccinated … Not to wait and not to risk having an outcome like we did for our family,” said Cruz.
San Diego County has seen a slight uptick in COVID hospitalizations in the past month.
A Gofundme campaign has been set up to help the family with funeral expenses.