The head of critical care who worked on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic at a Baltimore hospital died Saturday of the virus he helped fight for months. 

Dr. Joseph Costa, chief of the Division of Critical Care at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, died at age 56. The Washington Post and The Baltimore Sun reported Costa died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. 

“I have profound admiration and the deepest respect for Joe as a clinician, colleague and friend,” hospital President and CEO Dr. David Maine said in a statement posted to Facebook. “Mercy Medical Center and the Mercy family richly benefitted from Joe’s wisdom, compassion, insight and thought, ethical approach to his work and the families he served.” 

Joseph J. Costa, M.D., Chief, Division of Critical Care at Mercy.

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Costa, president of the hospital’s medical staff for two years, became chief of critical care at Mercy Medical Center in 2005, according to hospital officials. He joined the hospital in 1997 and was “known for his warm and comforting beside manner as well as his direct and informative communication style,” the hospital added. 

“Dr. Costa was a special friend to the Sisters of Mercy, the people of Baltimore and everyone he met,” said Sister Helen Amos, executive chair of the hospital’s board of trustees, said in a statement. 

She added, “Joe served the vulnerable and cared for our most ill and compromised patients. He gave our patients — and all of us — so much more than his medical expertise. He touched our lives with tenderness, hope, peace and a wonderfully big heart.” 

Costa died in the arms of his husband of 28 years, David R. Hart, the Washington Post reported. Hart told the newspaper that Costa became sick in late June and added that he “begged” Costa not to go to work. 

Message from Sister Helen Amos, RSM, and Mercy president and CEO Dr David Maine

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In interviews with both The Washington Post and The Baltimore Sun, Hart stressed the importance of wearing masks. 

“I get so angry when I see people not wearing masks,” Hart told the Sun. “It makes me want to take a bar of soap and write on my car’s rearview window that ‘My husband who saved so many lives died of COVID-19. Wear a mask!’”

A memorial service for Costa is being planned, Mercy Medical Center officials said. On Facebook, the hospital confirmed a tree will be planted in the ICU’s ninth floor garden. 

“He dedicated his life and career to caring for the sickest patients,” hospital officials said in a statement. “And when the global pandemic came down upon us, Joe selflessly continued his work on the front lines — deeply committed to serving our patients and our city during this time of great need.” 

The United States has had more than 4.2 million confirmed coronavirus cases, and more than 148,000 people have died in the country since the start of the pandemic, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. More than 3,300 people have died of the virus in Maryland, according to the state’s department of health. 

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Joseph Costa: Head of ICU at Baltimore hospital dies of coronavirus

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