Eighty-two San Diegans were reported dead this week alone after losing their battle with COVID-19.
It’s the most deaths reported in a week in the county since the start of the pandemic, and because the county tracks weekly deaths from Saturday to Friday, and because Friday's data is reported on Saturday, the weekly total could still rise.
It's important to remember these deaths are more than just numbers or statistics, and hundreds of locals will be mourning the loss of a loved one this holiday season.
“It’s so hard and so difficult to understand this situation, especially with this, the Christmas time,” said Arturo Renteria. His uncle, Carlos Estrada, 70, died last Friday after becoming infected with COVID-19 in October. He faced several COVID-19 complications while he was hospitalized for nearly six weeks. But Renteria said he’s choosing to remember his uncle for his joyous spirit.
“He was really happy. If you saw him, you can see his smile every time,” said Renteria
As Renteria and his family prepare to celebrate Christmas without their uncle, hundreds of San Diegans are facing the same loss. NBC 7 looked back at some of the locals whose lives were taken unexpectedly as a result of the pandemic.
Blanca Ramirez, 54, a mother from Imperial Beach. “I told my mother, ‘I love you. I am going to miss you, you’re always going to be remembered,” said Ramirez’s daughter, Brianna Romo.
“My dad, he was the funniest guy; loved family, loved his kids, loved his grandkids,” said Raul Martinez’s daughter, Claudia Martinez. Raul, 70, was from Chula Vista, a Vietnam Veteran and retired California Highway Patrol officer. He left behind a wife of nearly 50 years, four kids and nine grandchildren.
The Balsiger family remembered Dan Balsiger, 56, a father of two from Carmel Valley. “He was an amazing dad, great husband, great friend to a lot of people,” said Dan’s wife of 22 years, Judy Balsiger.
Cassie Martinez, 29, died in September. The Martinez family said she loved to travel and had plans to marry her boyfriend and start a family together.
“She was amazing. The people she loved, she always put them first,” said Martinez’s boyfriend, Ricardo Ferreya.
“I received a call from him, telling me ‘Irma, I’m positive,’ but then I couldn’t talk to him. ‘I have to go,’ he said,” recalled Irma Dojaquez. It was the last conversation she had with her husband of 48 years. Carlos Dojaquez was 71 years old when he died April 28.
Hector Navarro Lopez, 52, of San Marcos, leaves behind his wife and four children. “[He was] an inspiration. He was someone I looked up to,” Areli Noemi Navarro Arroyo said about her father.
“He died a star, with full family and a nationalized citizen,” said Barbara Rodriguez. Her father, Martin Rodriguez, 53, was a professional wrestler known as “El Espantito” or “The Terror." He was known for entertaining crowds with his humor and stunts. The father of two was well-recognized in the ring and a beloved City Heights neighbor.
Cathy Paulette Hamilton died unexpectedly after a short battle with COVID-19, according to her brother, Gaidi Finnie, of Imperial Beach. “She really was my best friend. If it wasn’t for the virus, my sister Cathy would still be here.”
According to San Diego County data, more than a thousand San Diegans have died from the virus since February.