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LONG BEACH (CBSLA) — Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia is speaking out after his mother died from coronavirus complications and encouraging people to take the pandemic seriously.

“To lose her is incredibly devastating for me and my brother and our family but she lived a joyous life. We’re very proud of her,” Garcia said.

Garcia’s mother, 61-year-old Gaby O’Donnell moved the family from Peru to the U.S. when he was five years old and later became an American citizen.

He says O’Donnell represented the American Dream and worked to clean homes, learn English before eventually getting a job in a clinic for more than 25 years.

“When I was young she would work multiple jobs. She’d come home from the clinic and work a shift. And then nights, she’d take another job. Or she’d work in a different clinic and take another shift,” Garcia said.

Garcia said his mother’s hard work inspired he and his brother Jake to both pursue higher education, leading to both of them graduating from California State University Long Beach.

The Long Beach mayor is hoping to keep his mother’s memory alive, honor front line workers throughout this pandemic, and do all we can to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“People need to take this seriously. Young people need to be responsible, have some self-sacrifice, wear a mask, social distance,” Garcia said. “If you’re still out there calling this thing a hoax. Honestly, you’re causing a danger in our community.”

O’Donnell wore her protective equipment at work but it’s unclear where or how she contracted the coronavirus.

Her sons have started a scholarship fund at Cal State Long Beach for immigrant women who are going into health care.

O’Donnell’s husband and the mayor’s stepfather, Greg O’Donnell, is currently on ventilator as he battles the coronavirus as well.

Garcia said former Vice President Joe Biden reached out to him after hearing of his mother’s death.

“This evening I received a call from Vice President @JoeBiden about my mom. I can’t express enough how much comfort it brought me. My family will be forever grateful for his words and support.”

This evening I received a call from Vice President @JoeBiden about my mom. I can’t express enough how much comfort it brought me. My family will be forever grateful for his words and support.

— Robert Garcia (@RobertGarciaLB) July 29, 2020

The mayor did not test positive for the virus.

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Tags: coronavirus covid 19 kcal 9 long beach long beach news mayor robert garcia garcia said

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Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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