Construction Worker Dies of COVID-19, Doctor Explains Potential Risks of Virus for Industry Workers

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Doctors want to remind essential workers not to let their guard down in the fight against COVID-19.

Especially because some occupations inherently come with the potential for damage to the lungs without proper protection.

An Irving family is grieving the loss of a father who worked in construction.

Candy Rodriguez clutched a framed photograph of her wedding day.

She must now face life without her husband of 23 years.

“I was waiting for other news like 'Hey, your husband is getting good. He’s coming back and he’s going to be with you.' But that didn’t happen,” she said through tears.

Intubated and hospitalized with COVID-19 since November, Jose Luis Rodriguez Juarez died on Monday.

He was 42.

Doctors, she said, found pre-existing damage in his lungs, including particles of dust and glass.

The father of three worked in construction, an industry doctors say where workers could be at higher risk for complications, should they contract the virus.

“Anything that compromises lung function at baseline and then you throw in a lung, a viral pneumonia on top, that can make matters much worse,” said Dr. Mark Casanova, President of the Dallas County Medical Society. “So, it’s not just an issue of protecting yourselves and protecting your co-workers using masks, it’s that at the end of the day there might be some increased, inherent risk of that.”

Dr. Casanova did not treat Rodriguez. NBC 5 asked the doctor to explain, in general terms, the potential impacts on the lungs of these essential workers if they do not wear proper protection and head CDC safety guidelines.

One lung condition that could afflict these industry employees is silicosis.

“It’s microscopic particles of sand, dust, in some issues glass or fiberglass, that get in the lungs so a lot of construction workers could be exposed to this,” he said.

Dr. Casanova said he and other area doctors noticed a spike in construction workers hospitalized with coronavirus last spring and summer.

Those working both inside and outside of buildings.

“We believed that the primary issue was masking,” he said.

Rodriguez admits her husband seldom wore face coverings on the job.

The family now hopes others follow safety guidelines to spare them this kind of pain.

“I think I’m going to love him for the rest of my life,” said Rodriguez. “He was a really good man with me.”

The family has a GoFundMe account to help with funeral and other costs. To help, click here.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have safety guidance for construction workers to follow including: staying home if they’re sick, wearing face coverings and sanitizing tools after using them.

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