SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Friday, marked two years since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.
So far, more than 960,000 people in the U.S. have lost their lives to the virus.
"For me, my mom was everything," Mario Sandoval said.
Sandoval describes his mom, Maria, as the true definition of a nurturer.
"My mom was the kind of lady that was like what do you want for breakfast, mijo?" Sandoval said.
The roles would eventually reverse as his parents grew older.
"I was already careful because of their age," Sandoval said.
So when the pandemic began, Sandoval said he started taking precautions right away.
His mom was vaccinated but fell ill last month before getting her booster.
"[Mother] Got a sore throat. [It] started to kind of go away, started to feel better, but then things turned for the worse," Sandoval said.
She passed a few days later at the age of 81.
"Everything else she was dealing with medically... it was just too much," Sandoval said.
It's people like Sandoval's mother, who the non-profit, Marked by COVID, is looking to honor with the designation of a National COVID-19 Victims and Survivors Memorial Day.
The organization was founded by loved ones of COVID-19 victims.
Sandoval said he was fortunate to spend his mother's last moments by her side in the hospital.
It's something many families weren't able to do as healthcare workers stepped in to comfort their dying loved ones.
"Everybody in the healthcare field got together, showed up to work to take care of our patients and our community," said Dr. William Tseng, the Assistant Chief of Staff at Kaiser Permanente San Diego.
Dr.Tseng began choking up as he expressed how the past two years have been for healthcare workers.
"There were a lot of sacrifices, but we did it," he said.
Dr.Tseng remembers every pivotal date of the pandemic from the day San Diego County declared a state of local emergency on Feb. 14, 2020, to Dec. 16, 2020, at 1:30 p.m., when the hospital administered the first COVID-19 vaccines.
"That was a moment of hope, a moment of joy," Dr.Tseng said.
However, Dr.Tseng said the lives they couldn't save are a constant reminder of the pandemic's toll.
"I remember the faces. That's what bothers me. I remember the faces," Dr.Tseng said.
The organization is also pushing for a physical COVID memorial.
Sandoval has set up a GoFundMe to help with his mother's funeral expenses.