2 City of Houston employees die of COVID-19 the same week

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Saturday, November 28, 2020
2 City of Houston employees die of COVID-19 the same week
Thank you Officer Ernest Leal Jr. for 36 years of service, and to Joel Cirilo for six years of service to the City of Houston.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Two City of Houston employees died from COVID-19 this week, according to Mayor Sylvester Turner.

Mayor Turner offered his condolences to the families of Senior Police Officer Ernest Leal Jr. and Houston Public Works employee Joel Cirilo.

"As a city, we collectively mourn and feel the grief and heartache of losing two employees in the same week as a result of COVID-19," Turner said. "I ask all Houstonians to pray for the families of Officer Ernest Leal and Joel Cirilo. In their own way, they contributed to our city and made life better for all of us. I am grateful for their dedication and service to the City of Houston."

Leal was a 36-year veteran of the Houston Police Department. He was battling the virus in the hospital for some time before he died Friday evening.

HPD Chief Art Acevedo also offered Leal's family his condolences in a tweet.

"It is with the heaviest of hearts that we announce the death of @houstonpolice Officer Ernest Leal, Jr. He battled COVID-19 with great vigor and courage," Acevedo wrote.

Leal joined HPD in August 1984, working with both the northeast patrol division and the jail division. He later moved to the north patrol division where he served for more than 30 years.

Leal leaves behind a wife and four children, as well as his mom, two brothers and a sister.

"We have truly lost a man that defines what it means to be a public servant," Acevedo wrote on Twitter.

Cirilo was also fighting for his life in the hospital for a week before he died Wednesday, Nov. 25.

He started his career with the City of Houston in the Code Enforcement Division in 2014. His wife, Veronica, is also a Houston Public Works employee.

"Joel will be missed so much," she said in a statement. "He loved his job and our co-workers. He fought so courageously, but this virus has no mercy. Praying that 2021 brings no more heartache due to COVID-19. I am thankful for so many blessings Joel and I shared through the years."

Nine municipal employees, three Houston firefighters and one Houston police officer have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.