The first person to start coughing at Jose Ramos Moreno's home was his daughter-in-law.
A few days later, towards the end of June, Ramos wasn't feeling well either.
Within a week, six out of seven Ramos family members who live together in a tiny house in Santa Ana were sick. Some had mild symptoms; others felt terrible. All tested positive for coronavirus.
Ramos didn't make it. He died on Monday, August 10th after spending weeks on a ventilator. He was 51 years old.
"I have lost the other half of my heart," said his wife Consuelo Alvarez de Ramos.
The virus has devastated the Ramos family as it covers much of Santa Ana. The second largest city in the district in terms of population is hardest hit, both in terms of total numbers and per capita.
There were 8,362 coronavirus cases in Santa Ana as of Friday, Aug. 14, which is about one-fifth the county's total, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency. Santa Ana also had the highest number of deaths in the county, 204, including 76 deaths in skilled care facilities for the elderly.
Experts say the disease is devastating communities where people are confined and cannot always work from home. That was true of Ramos' family. Once the infection got inside her 600-foot, two-bedroom, one-bathroom home, there was no way to escape it. Ramos, his wife, four children between the ages of 11 and 30 and a 32-year-old daughter-in-law got it.
“It started with my sister-in-law. And then my father got sick, ”said Carolina Gonzalez, one of Ramos' daughters who does not live in the same house. “My mother tested positive. My little sister tested positive. My older brother and little brother tested positive. "
At first, Ramos' daughter-in-law, who asked that her name not be used, thought she had the flu. She took some over-the-counter medication and went to work on her camp assembly in Santa Ana on June 18. But a day later, she felt so bad that she called in sick. She was tested for coronavirus the following week, but the results were not made available for days. And by then she was getting sicker.
On the morning of June 28, her father-in-law was admitted to the Orange County Global Medical Center. She was recorded that night, so weak that she could neither walk nor open her eyes.
At first she did not notice that she and her father-in-law were not only on the same floor, but in the same room, separated by a curtain.
Ramos, struggling with high blood pressure, was later moved to another floor and hooked up to a ventilator, which was essentially life support and pumped oxygen into his lungs. His daughter-in-law, who had no previous illnesses, was hospitalized for nine days. She has continued to experience problems since she was released, including weakness and knee pain.
The only one in the house who escaped the virus was Manuel Ramos, a 16-year-old middle college high school student. He started wearing a mask around the house before his sister-in-law was diagnosed.
“I have a friend and her family includes people who could easily die if they got corona. I wanted to make sure they were okay, ”he said.
"And I didn't want a corona. I always wore a mask."
Jose Ramos Moreno with his wife Consuelo Alvarez de Ramos in 2017. Jose Ramos, 51, died of coronavirus on August 10, 2020 after spending weeks in a coma. "We were inseparable," said his wife. "I've lost the other half of my heart." (Courtesy of the Ramos family)
The Ramos family did their best. Even before the virus came to their home, Consuelo had sewn masks for everyone. They regularly disinfected doorknobs and other devices. And they tried to stay separate.
After the first family member fell ill, others spent time in the garage, which has sofas. Her back yard became another refuge.
"Some of us spent a lot of time there," said Manuel Ramos.
But the house is like many others in Santa Ana, where Latino families often live in overcrowded conditions that don't take into account the social distancing required to keep the virus at bay.
In the Ramos household, Jose and Consuelo had a bedroom. A son and his wife share the second bedroom. Manuel and his 13-year-old brother sleep on sofas in the living room, along with their 11-year-old sister, who sleeps on a mattress.
"I've never had my own room," said Manuel. "It's frustrating not to have a closed space of my own. But I've got used to it. I enjoy being with everyone. I take it for granted."
After losing his father and seeing his family devastated, Manuel wants people to know that “Coronavirus is real; That's no joke. "
"I hope people wear masks when they go out and wear masks when a family member is sick because they don't know what can happen."
Gonzalez, his 28-year-old sister, agreed, "Some people say," It's a joke. "It's real. It's destroying families."
The Ramos family – his wife, seven children, six grandchildren, and one more on the way – don't want their patriarch to go down as a mere statistic. They talk about his fighting spirit, his sense of humor, his passion for his family.
"My father, he was great," said Manuel. “Since I was next to become the so-called man, he always taught me things. He wanted to keep me on the right track and he always made sure that I was focused on school. "
Gonzalez said her father was a central figure in the large family. He organized weekend carne asada barbecues and met with the grandchildren, always with a sense of humor.
Jose Ramos Moreno with two of his six grandchildren, Eeva and Angela, on March 24th, 2020. “He was really good with his grandchildren. He has six grandchildren and one on the way, ”said daughter Carolina Gonzalez, switching between past and present as she talked about her father. Ramos died of coronavirus on Monday, August 10, 2020. He was 51 years old. (Courtesy of the Ramos family)
"He always made people laugh," she said. "In our family, he was the person everyone wanted at a party."
Ramos was born in a small town in Guadalajara, Mexico. He met Consuelo Alvarez in Los Angeles when they were both teenagers and she was working for his sister. Over the years, the couple often worked together, embroidering for clothing companies or in sanitary facilities, cleaning heavy machinery. For the past few years he has worked part-time as a house cleaner, driving family members to work and school. He also planned to start a family cleaning company.
“He was the one taking care of the family. So we were not only affected emotionally, but also financially, ”said Gonzalez. “We all have jobs with minimum wages. We work from paycheck to paycheck trying to save as best we can. "
To help the family pay for his funeral, they launched a GoFundme page. On Sunday they also plan to hold a car wash on Edinger Avenue and Bristol Street in Santa Ana from 10 a.m.
Since his death, the family has been trying to get things under control. The adults complete burial plans.
They also adapt to their new life. Ramos' daughter-in-law says she feels guilty about being the first in the little house to get sick.
Some are still recovering from the physical effects of the coronavirus. Ramos' wife Consuelo was retested Thursday and is waiting to hear if she is no longer positive.
Meanwhile, between visits to the doctor and the morgue, she spends time in her back yard, where her husband built a deck and planted a chayote vine. She sits and mourns.