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Head of ICU, 56, dies from COVID-19 in the arms of his husband who ‘begged him not to go to work’

The chief doctor of a Baltimore hospital’s critical care unit has died after contracting the coronavirus.

Joseph Costa, who headed the intensive care unit at Mercy Medical Center, died Saturday in the arms of his husband who ‘begged him not to go to work’ before he fell ill in late June. He was 56.

Costa’s husband of 28 years, David R. Hart, told The Washington Post: ‘I begged him not to go to work. When you see people without masks, you think, ‘Are you out of your mind?’. This disease will take you out in a heartbeat.’

Hart said he met his husband, who had a rare underlying autoimmune disorder, three decades ago, adding: ‘That was it. We were never apart after that. There was just something about him.’

Costa’s colleagues are said to have held a vigil as he died, placing their gloved hands on him. 

Hart, who also contracted COVID-19, told The Baltimore Sun: ‘Those who cared for Joe were his best friends.

‘I keep thinking, now there is one less ICU doctor to care for pandemic patients in Baltimore.’

Executive chair of the hospital’s board of trustees Sister Helen Amos and David N. Maine, the hospital’s president and chief executive, said in a joint statement: ‘Joe was more than a trusted colleague. He was also a true friend to many. He dedicated his life and career to caring for the sickest patients. 

‘And 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.’

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated 576 healthcare workers have died from the virus but the real figure is thought to be higher.

More than four million people have tested positive for coronavirus across America; at least 145,000 have died.  

Kevin Parks, one of Costa’s patients, told WBAL-TV the doctor was filled with compassion. ‘He was never high, never low,’ Parks said. ‘He was steady. He always smiled, always had your back.’

Talented linguist and musician Costa joined the hospital in 1997 and became the chief of the critical care unit in 2005.

‘He knew how to take good care of himself, and he still passed away from this disease,’ Amy Zimmerman, a doctor who graduated with Costa from medical school, told the news outlet. ‘This could happen to anybody.’

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