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Coronavirus kills hospital ICU chief who 'selflessly' cared for patients during pandemic

"This is real," a medical school classmate said of Dr. Joseph Costa. "This was a 56-year-old healthy man. He knew how to be careful ... and he still passed away from this disease.”

The chief of critical care at a Baltimore hospital who helped treat the "sickest" patients, including during the pandemic, died Saturday of the coronavirus.

Dr. Joseph Costa, 56, was the intensive care unit chief at Mercy Medical Center in downtown Baltimore. The hospital confirmed his death in a statement posted to Facebook on Sunday.

“He dedicated his life and career to caring for the sickest patients,” Sister Helen Amos, chair of the hospital’s board of trustees, and David Maine, president and CEO, said in a joint statement. “When the global pandemic came down upon us, Joe selflessly continued his work on the front lines — deeply committed to serving our patients and our City during this time of great need.”

“His memory will live on as an example to us all,” the hospital said.

Dr. Joseph Costa, the chief of the critical care division at Mercy Medical Center who treated patients battling COVID-19, died of the coronavirus on July 25, 2020.Mercy Medical Center

Costa had worked for Mercy for 23 years, becoming chief of critical care in 2005. He is survived by his husband of 28 years, David Hart.

“I keep thinking, 'Now there is one less ICU doctor to care for pandemic patients in Baltimore,'” Hart told The Baltimore Sun.

One of Costa's medical school classmates, Dr. Amy Zimmerman, told NBC Baltimore affiliate WBAL that his tragic death should serve as a reminder of the seriousness of the pandemic.

"This is real. This was a 56-year-old healthy man. He knew how to be careful. He knew how to take good care of himself, and he still passed away from this disease,” she said. “This could happen to anybody.”

Maryland has had more than 85,000 cases of the coronavirus and almost 3,500 deaths, according to NBC News' tally. The numbers of new cases were beginning to dip in June, but have been rising once more in July, Maryland Health Department figures show.

Costa is among over 850 health care workers in the U.S. who have died of COVID-19, according to a joint tally by Kaiser Health News and The Guardian.