An 18-year-old Latino man from Denver, Colorado has died after enduring two bouts of the deadly virus COVID-19. Wilber Portillo reportedly contracted the novel coronavirus twice just a couple of weeks apart back in the fall, ultimately passing away on November 19 due to complications from the virus that has caused a global pandemic for nearly a year now. “He was just getting better. He had about a week of COVID-free before getting sick again,” his girlfriend Andrea Ferrel told Fox Denver. Wilber initially contracted COVID-19 in October, was sick for a few weeks and then became ill again in mid-November. According to family members, he went to see a doctor on November 18 and died on November 19, however his positive COVID-19 test result was not returned until two days after his death.
His girlfriend Andrea told Denver’s FOX31 that the doctor told Wilber that he had a “strong infection in his lungs.” She says Wilber fell asleep and never woke up. “It was devastating not being able to be there for him and support him as much as I could,” said Andrea.
Originally from El Salvador, Wilber’s parents moved to the United States with him when he was five-years-old. However, they returned to their home country just two years later, leaving Wilber in the custody of his uncle, Oscar Castillo. Just a few months before he succumbed to the coronavirus, Wilber graduated from Career Education Center Early College (a magnet high school), and had obtained a real estate license as well as launched a home business selling gym gear.
“It’s a little bit difficult to know that he doesn’t exist physically anymore,” Wilber’s uncle Oscar, told Denverite. “He was a guy with a lot of light.” Oscar explained that while his nephew took COVID seriously and practiced social distancing, he contracted the virus for the first time after traveling to Los Angeles to shop for products for his business. His second bout with the virus was the result of attending a party that he eventually learned had also been attended by two other people who ultimately tested positive.
Wilber’s death highlights the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has had on Latinx people in America, particularly since COVID deaths for people his age are fairly uncommon. Multiple reports have been released indicating that both COVID-19 infection rates and deaths are higher among Latinx people in several areas of the country, including Denver, Los Angeles and Washington state and New Mexico. Additionally as we reported back in September, a vast majority of children dying from COVID-19 in America are Black, Latinx and Native American. “By late December, Latinos in New Mexico, who are 49 percent of the population, made up 55 percent of the coronavirus cases and 37 percent of deaths,” reported NBC News back in December 2020. As of January 13, the novel coronavirus has killed over 61,000 Latinos in America according to the CDC, accounting for over 18.2% of the total COVID deaths in the country.
A GoFundMe campaign raised more than $13,000 in funds to transport Wilber’s remains to his parents in El Salvador. “If there’s anything we would like for you to remember Wilber by is, BE THE BEST YOU. This was his motto, be the best you, live life to the fullest. We also hope to seek awareness that COVID-19 is to be taken serious. No matter how young or healthy you may seem,” his family wrote in the fundraiser description.