Seafood worker is county’s first COVID-19 death

Celerino Gámez Galicia

Second man died while in the hospital

NEWPORT — Two people in Lincoln County have now died from the novel coronavirus.

After the Oregon Health Authority announced Lincoln County’s first COVID-19 death on Monday — a man with underlying medical conditions who tested positive on June 17, the day after his death — the family of Celerino Gámez Galicia confirmed the 68-year-old died of the virus at his home on June 16.

Through translator Angel Torres, Hispanic ministries pastor at Newport First Baptist Church, his niece Sandra Hernandez told the News-Times Galicia loved baseball and canción ranchera music. He was from Puebla, Mexico, and first came to Oregon in the 1980s. His wife lives in Puebla, and he lived with his two adult children in Newport. Hernandez’s uncle worked in seafood processing, but she was not sure for which company, Torres said.

Galicia was born Feb. 2, 1952. He was a permanent resident and “becoming an American citizen was one of this dreams,” Hernandez relayed through Torres.

Hernandez said she wanted to come to be with her cousins after their father’s death, but “because of the condition of the family,” she was advised she could not. Lincoln County Public Health Director Rebecca Austen told county commissioners on Monday that the county’s first COVID-19 fatality had occurred in a household where three members tested positive.

Yachats News reported Monday, citing Galicia’s family, that his son worked at the McDonald’s in Newport, which closed last week after four of its employees tested positive for the virus.

Mindful of the family’s quarantine status, the Hispanic ministries pastor said he and the congregation were regularly reaching out to them to help ensure their basic needs are met. A friend started a Gofundme page on their behalf to raise money for final arrangements https://www.gofundme.com/f/ayudanos-pagar-para-el-funeral-de-celerino-galicia. Torres told the News-Times Hernandez and her family wanted to hold a funeral service but “they were told it would not be possible because of coronavirus, and so the family is hurting because of that.” She said her uncle was a man of faith and “had accepted Jesus Christ into his heart.”

In a prepared statement, Austen, the county health director, said of Galicia’s passing, “This is a very sad day for all of us in the county. Our hearts and prayers go out to the family and friends for their loss. This virus is extremely dangerous, and despite the inconvenience it has posed for all of us, we cannot take it lightly.”

According to the health authority, Galicia was the state’s 191st COVID-19 death. The authority also reported Oregon’s 192nd death from the virus on Monday, a 90-year-old Marion County woman. Additional information about that death is still pending.

The News-Times learned Tuesday morning, June 23, that Newport resident Salvador Magaña Rojas died that day due to complications from COVID-19. According to a Gofundme page created by his family to raise money for funeral expenses (https://www.gofundme.com/f/ayudanos-a-pagar-el-funeral-salvador-magana), Rojas was hospitalized two days prior to his death. “Our whole family has been affected by this virus, and we have been unable to work for the past three weeks,” the fundraiser page reads.

The county health department issued a release Tuesday afternoon announcing the county’s second COVID-19 death, a 63-year-old man who tested positive June 10 and died June 23 in Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospital. A Samaritan Health Services spokesperson confirmed Rojas died in the hospital in Newport. The health department said it is not currently known if the decedent had underlying health conditions.

Rojas’ family could not be reached for comment. The Gofundme page said he was “a father, grandfather and a friend.”

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