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CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8 | cbs8.com

Sharp Chula Vista E.R. nurse hospitalized with COVID-19

Friends and family are rallying behind a South Bay nurse fighting for his life against COVID-19.

CHULA VISTA, Calif. — San Diego County hit its deadliest day yet for COVID-19. County officials reported a record 79 new deaths on January 21 due to the virus.

This follows a previously daily high of 65 deaths, county officials say the increase is likely due to people who got sick over the holidays.

The deadly spike is also being felt by the local first responders charged with keeping us safe.

Daniel Plata, 38, a Sharp Chula Vista E.R. nurse is known to be a leader and always keeps other nurses upbeat during difficult times.

“Danny is a funny guy and likes to joke around and provide comedic relief when we are around and I feel so much safer with him,” said Natalie Sanchez.

Emergency Room nurse Natalie Sanchez just finished her first year as a nurse in August 2020. She doesn’t have Danny to lean on right now where they work in the South Bay with the highest number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

“Danny is a very strong person. I can't talk about it without crying. He is a very strong person,” said Sanchez.

She says Danny didn’t want to worry anyone, so he didn’t tell them he’d been hospitalized with COVID-19 on January 11 with COVID-19. They say it started as a cough and by Saturday he was on a ventilator and now on ECMO, extracorporeal life support.

“I actually text him daily, even though he is intubated and can't respond. My hope is that he will wake up and text me back one day,” said Sanchez.

While Danny is in the hospital, his friends, family and co-workers rallied support for him and his 18-year-old daughter in college. They also held a drive-by birthday for his son who turned 11 last Sunday.

“Danny always has everyone's back,” said Sanchez.

This week San Diego County lost correctional officer for Ralph Serrano to COVID-19. On Wednesday, Captain Chris Mertz, 54, with the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District died from the virus.

“Everybody is taking is real hard. Chris was a true American hero. He set the example for our organization,” said Chief Fred Cox, Rancho Sante Fe Fire Protection District.

Frontline workers understand COVID fatigue, they feel it every day but they hope people understand, this virus is real and people need to take precautions.

“We do it for our patients we have to keep going, we have to make sure that people get the care they need so hopefully be able to fight this and survive this,” said Sanchez.

A GoFundMe has been set up if you would like to send your love and support or donate to help Danny and his children.

Greetings friends, colleagues and community members, As many of you know, Danny is an Emergency Department nurse who has worked tirelessly on the front lines of the COVID pandemic for the last year. Now, Danny is in a battle against COVID himself.

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RELATED: San Diego reports record 79 COVID-19 deaths, 2,847 new cases