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Married California high school sweethearts die from Covid hours apart

"They've been together since she was 15," one relative said. They leave behind four children.

A Latino couple in Southern California died from Covid-19 just hours apart from each other.

Alvaro and Sylvia Fernandez, 44 and 42, both died from Covid on Dec. 19. The couple had met in their teens and were married for 25 years.

"They were high school sweethearts. They've been together since she was 15," Salvador Fernandez, Alvaro Fernandez's brother, told NBC Los Angeles. "One couldn't live without the other."

Image: Alvaro and Sylvia Fernandez at their high school prom.
Alvaro and Sylvia Fernandez at their high school prom.via NBC 4

Family members told NBC Los Angeles the couple were unvaccinated and Alvaro Fernandez had diabetes. They tested positive for the virus days before their deaths, according to the family.

Alma Hernandez, Alvaro Fernandez’s sister, said Sylvia Fernandez was about to get vaccinated.

"[Alvaro Fernandez] wanted to wait and do more research" before getting vaccinated, Hernandez told NBC Los Angeles. "He Googled information. He didn't want to believe everything that was on the news."

"This is kind of an eye-opener for everybody in my family that whoever is not vaccinated definitely should have their vaccinations," said Hernandez, who is fully vaccinated, along with her brother Salvador Fernandez.

In a GoFundMe page the family organized, they wrote that Alvaro and Sylvia Fernandez left behind four children — two young adults and 17-year-old twins.

The country is seeing a dramatic surge in Covid cases, mostly fueled by the highly transmissible omicron variant. The U.S. hit 1 million new Covid-19 cases Monday, according to data compiled by NBC News. 

California is averaging 22,794 daily cases with a 20.4 percent seven-day test positivity rate, according to recent statewide data. Covid hospitalizations in the state had increased by 8.2 percent in one day.

In San Bernardino County, which is more than half Latino, there have been 401,938 total confirmed Covid cases and 6,056 total confirmed deaths, according to state data.

“We’ve been undertested, undercounted, underfunded, and you have a couple of decades of issues with social determinants of health,” Dr. Ilan Shapiro said in a phone call with NBC News. Shapiro is the medical director for health education for AltaMed, a Latino health care provider based in Southern California.

Other states with large numbers of Hispanic residents, including New York and New Jersey, and the U.S. territory Puerto Rico are among those with the highest new numbers of Covid cases.

For those who are still unvaccinated, Shapiro recommended not relying on "a computer" for information on the vaccine, but talking to a physician or health care professionals.

While the omicron variant is considered more mild for those who are fully vaccinated and boosted, “that doesn’t mean it’s harmless,” Shapiro said.

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