Families of city workers who died of COVID-19 issue warning

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The families of the two city of Houston employees who died of COVID-19 want their loved ones to be remembered as essential workers who were dedicated to helping Houstonians.

Michael Sanchez worked to ensure the city's drainage ditches were in good shape, and Natarvia Robertson worked in billing.

Sanchez and Robertson both died from COVID-19 on July 17.

More than 200 city of Houston civilian workers have tested positive for the virus.

"It was really hard to think about how dad would always tell us a coworker's mom passed or a coworker got COVID," said Sanchez's son Steven. "So, that was always on our mind. We had to stay strong, knowing he was out there, helping people."

Sanchez left behind four children, the youngest, Destiny, is just 7 years old.

The family said Sanchez went to the hospital about three weeks ago after feeling sick. When the COVID-19 test came back negative, the doctor authorized him to return to work.

Soon after, Sanchez felt sick again and returned to the doctor. This time, his COVID-19 test came back positive.

"He was very dedicated," said his daughter Julia, recalling how her father sent all the children to stay with relatives the last three weeks because he did not want them exposed. "He went to work and quarantined himself just so we could be safe."

Robertson's family said they believe she got COVID-19 from a supervisor.

"She called me and said one of her supervisors tested positive for COVID, so they sent her home to self quarantine," said Robertson's sister LaShonda Robertson-Bates. "At the time she was okay, but unfortunately, on Saturday she started developing a cough."

Robertson, who had lifelong asthma issues, went downhill very quickly. Within a few days of having the cough, she was intubated at the hospital and died soon after.

Sanchez also died just a few days after getting a positive test result.

"He always had a smile, made us laugh, and his passion was music," said Julia. "His children were his world. He would do anything and everything for us."

Robertson has a brother who works for the Houston Police Department as a robbery detective. The family is used to people seeing him as a first responder, but wanted to remind everyone that civilian city employees are essential as well.

"That's one of those things that goes on behind the scenes that people don't see, besides HPD, the firefighters, you have to have water, electricity," Julia said.

Both families are planning funerals and urging everyone to take COVID-19 seriously.

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