Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia honors his mother who died of COVID-19

“It’s been very hard to lose her, but it’s been an honor to tell her story.”

Just two weeks after appearing with FOX 11’s Elex Michaelson to discuss his mother and step-father’s COVID-19 diagnoses, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia returned to The Issue Is with the devastating news of his mother’s passing from the disease.

Gabriella O’Donnell was 61.

“My mom was an amazing woman, she immigrated to the US, like all immigrants, with the American Dream,” Garcia said. “She worked hard, she cleaned houses, worked odd-end jobs, and then landed in health care, and worked at the same clinic for over 25 years, taking care of people, and she took care of thousands of patients during her career.”

Given her medical experience, Garcia said his mother knew how serious COVID-19 was, taking all the necessary precautions. However, watching O’Donnell suffer through the disease, Garcia said there is still much the medical community will admit they don’t know about COVID-19.

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“My mom was actually making steady progress, she was moving forward, we thought she would come out, the doctors were very optimistic, but then pretty quickly, she got worse,” Garcia said. “That’s something that can happen with this disease, it can really attack different organs, different parts of the body, so that was just devastating, to see in days her condition worsen.”

In the aftermath of his personal loss, Garcia says that he continues to be focused on keeping the city of Long Beach safe, calling on residents, especially younger ones, to wear face and social distance in an effort to not over-burden health professionals.

In another effort to help health professionals, Garcia has also set-up a scholarship at Long Beach State, his alma mater, in his mother’s name.

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“While she never went to college, it was her life’s goal to help people in her clinic and to help nurses and doctors,” Garcia said, adding that the scholarship is aimed at helping women and immigrants in health care fields who, like O’Donnell, want to help care for others.

As he remembered his mother on The Issue Is, Garcia also discussed a condolence call he received from former Vice President, and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden.

“He’s known, I think, for being someone that has experienced a lot of grief, and has reached out to people that are experiencing grief,” Garcia said of Biden. “His words were very comforting, and I just appreciate the support for my family, for my brother, and for myself.”

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