MIAMI (CBSMIAMI) —- Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi is speaking out as the coronavirus has taken a terrible toll on the family of a prominent Monroe County commissioner.
Gastesi tells CBS4’s Peter D’Oench that the family tragedy has humbled him and provides more warnings about just how lethal COVID-19 can be.
“Obviously we are heartbroken and devastated by the news of the passing of Cheryl Cates, the wife of Commissioner Craig Cates. She passed away a couple of days ago from COVID-19 at Jackson Memorial Hospital. So we are devastated by that news.”
Cheryl Cates was a longtime volunteer for charities in Key West. She died Wednesday at the age of 67.
She and her husband and daughter, 35-year-old Crystal Cates, had been admitted to the hospital after testing positive for the coronavirus. Cates was Mayor of Key West from 2009 to 2018.
Gastesi said it is not known how they contracted the coronavirus.
“The family has wanted to keep this very private,” he said. “We hear from them now and then. We don’t know how he is doing or how the daughter is doing. We hope to hear good news soon from the family so we don’t know.”
“This is obviously a very humbling moment when it hits home like this,” he said. “This is a weird virus. We are still trying to figure out how some people get it when it appears they are totally asymptomatic and they don’t feel it and it hits part of a family like this hard. The best thing to do is to very careful and do what you are supposed to do. By now everyone should know what has to be done.”
“You and I have known each other for many years with the hurricanes and the storms and a lot of things,” he told D’Oench. “We have the term hurricane fatigue. I see people now having coronavirus fatigue and getting sloppy. They start hearing about the vaccine and hearing about progress but now is not the time to get sloppy. It’s the time to continue to be very careful and do what we have to do to keep the disease from spreading.”
He said “I keep asking our Director of Health are we at halftime, to use a football term, and he says we are not even at halftime yet. We are near it but we are not at halftime yet. We have to be careful for the next 6 or 8 months.”
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Monroe County Mayor Michelle Coldiron released a statement saying, “We pray for their strength and recovery as they mourn their loss.”
Wesley House, a Key West non-profit agency, posted on social media: “Wesley House is in mourning over the loss of our long-term and deeply loved board member Cheryl Cates. Cheryl was a fabulous advocate for our agency and worked tirelessly to better the lives of children and families in the Florida Keys. No one can ever replace her.”
One of Cates’ two other daughters, Tammy Cates Berard, posted a comment on Facebook about Cheryl, “She was the most beautiful, loving, unselfish woman most of us have ever had the privilege of knowing. She gave her whole heart, time, and talents to the island she loved so much.”
She said of her father, “Dad is on the fight of his life.”