Leukemia-stricken Texas chief who led COVID-19 efforts dies

A Texas county’s emergency chief, who led the community’s efforts to procure PPE for coronavirus first responders, has died from the effects of leukemia and COVID-19, according to reports.

David Prasifka, Atascosa County’s emergency management coordinator, passed away on Saturday after testing positive for the virus — the very disease he had “been valiantly fighting against,” Atascosa County officials said in a Facebook post. He was 58 years old.

The diagnosis came shortly after Prasifka was also diagnosed with leukemia, according to his obituary.

“When this COVID Pandemic shook the United States he made sure to make everyone aware of it seriousness [sic]. He constantly worked day and night to help the community through this Pandemic,” his obituary reads.

“Unfortunately before we could completely make it out, he was diagnosed with Leukemia. He was receiving very aggressive treatment, but the treatment could not help him once COVID entered his body.”

Prasifka worked long hours and “stepped in at every level” when the pandemic hit his community, CNN reported.

“He worked evenings, he got up early in the morning. He communicated with state officials when PPE was extraordinarily short. He scrounged all over the state for it… Sometimes that involved him driving a couple hundred miles to pick up PPE,” Atascosa Judge Robert Hurley told the network.

“It didn’t matter how far he had to go, what he had to do to get it.”

Prasifka also organized the county’s testing sites — an effort Hurley said saved lives.

“We probably had more (testing sites) in our county than any other that are our size, at least in our area of Texas, and he ran them personally. There’s no question (he helped save lives)… We had extremely low numbers for a county our size until they opened the bars and beaches back up,” Hurley said.

Last Monday, Prasifka began experiencing fainting spells and thought the cause was an abscessed tooth. But when he visited a doctor, he was diagnosed with acute leukemia and sent to San Antonio Hospital, where he received a positive diagnosis for the coronavirus.

“He called me Friday morning,” Hurley told CNN. “He told me what his situation was and that he had tested positive, but that he felt great. They were going to start treating the leukemia and everything was going to be fine. He was upbeat just like he always is.”

Instead, Prasifka was put on a ventilator that night and died the next morning.

Prior to serving as the county’s emergency management coordinator, Prasifka spent 25 years with the Jourdanton Volunteer Fire Department, eventually working his way up to chief.

Atascosa county has reported 148 positive cases and two deaths as of Wednesday, according to the John Hopkins University.

Prasifka is survived by his wife, four sons and five grandchildren.

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