Minnesota Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns has become the latest public face in the fight against the coronavirus after revealing in an emotional video late Tuesday night that his mother has been hospitalized for the past week and is dealing with health complications from what he believes to be COVID-19.
Towns did not say in the video whether his mother, Jacqueline Cruz, had been diagnosed with the virus, but the Timberwolves confirmed to ESPN's Malika Andrews on Wednesday that Cruz has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
Towns said his mother is in a medically induced coma and had to be put on a ventilator.
"I think it's important that everyone understands the severity of what's happening in the world right now with the coronavirus, and I think where my life is right now could help, so I decided to do this video and give you an update of where I'm at," Towns said during a nearly six-minute video posted to Instagram. "I was told early last week my parents weren't feeling well. My first reaction to her was to go seek medical attention immediately. There's no reason to wait, just go to the nearest hospital. And after a couple days of not showing any signs of improvement, I was very adamant on the first day to go to a hospital and seek further evaluation.
"Specifically, my sister told her she needs to get checked for corona. I don't think anyone really understood what it was, with deteriorating condition. She kept getting worse, she kept getting worse, and the hospital was doing everything they can.
"She just wasn't getting better," Towns continued. "Her fever was never cutting from 103, maybe go down to 101.9 with the meds, and then immediately spike back up during the night. She was very uncomfortable. Her lungs were getting worse, her cough was getting worse. She was deteriorating. She was deteriorating -- and we always felt that the next medicine would help. This is the one that's going to get it done. This mixture is going to get it done."
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Sharing my story in the hopes that everyone stays at home! We need more equipment and we need to help those medical personnel on the front lines. Thank you to the medical staff who are helping my mom. You are all the true heroes! Praying for all of us at this difficult time.
Towns, who was born and raised in New Jersey, said his parents were not feeling well over the past week and that both were tested for COVID-19. Towns noted that his father, Karl Sr., was released from the hospital and had been told to self-quarantine as they awaited the results of the test.
Towns' agent, Jessica Holtz, told ESPN on Wednesday night that Karl Sr. did test positive for COVID-19 and is "recovering well" while finishing up his quarantine.
Towns said the family assumed his mother had COVID-19 because of the symptoms she was showing, but she started to feel better in recent days before taking a turn for the worse.
"She was feeling great," Towns said in the video. "We talked, and she felt she turned the corner; I felt she was turning the corner. I knew there was more days to come, but I felt that we were heading in the right direction. They said that she went sideways and things had went sideways quick. And her lungs were extremely getting worse and she was having trouble breathing, and they were just explaining to me that she had to be put on a ventilator. And she was getting worse and she was confused by everything, and I'm trying to talk to her about everything and encourage and stay positive, just talk through everything with her."
Towns, who had to pause at times during the video to compose himself, said he was in constant contact with his mom before she was put into the medically induced coma.
"I talked to her when she went there and told her I loved her," he said. "Every day I always told her how much I love her. She was telling me things I didn't want to hear so -- I dismissed some things she was saying because it wasn't something I want to hear. It came to a point where it's difficult. It's been very difficult for me and my family, to say the least. She's the head of our household. She's the boss.
"She's been in a medically induced coma. Since that day, I haven't talked to her, haven't been able to obviously communicate with her. I've just been getting updates on her condition. It's rough, and day by day we're just seeing how it goes. We're being positive; I'm being very positive. So I'm just keeping the strength up for everybody and my family."
In a 2017 interview with ESPN, Towns said his mother had worked in the Rutgers University medical department for more than 20 years. He shares a close relationship with his parents and is hopeful that by speaking out about his mother he can affect how other people view the seriousness of the virus.
"[My family] told me to make this video so that people understand that the severity of this disease is real," Towns said. "This disease needs to not be taken lightly. Please protect your families, your loved ones, your friends, yourself. Practice social distancing. Please don't be in places with a lot of people; it just heightens your chances of getting this disease, and this disease ... it's deadly. It's deadly. And we're going to keep fighting on my side, me and my family, we're going to keep fighting this. We're going to beat it. We're going to win."
Towns, who had not played in an NBA game since Feb. 10 because of a fractured left wrist, remained hopeful about his mother's prognosis and sent warm wishes out to anyone dealing with the virus.
"I hope my story helps," Towns said. "I hope my story gives you the correct information. Send my love to all your families. I'm praying for every single one of you guys. Give everyone my thoughts and my prayers, and life may keep throwing punches at me, but I'll keep getting back up. And I ain't going to quit at any time, and neither will my whole family, neither will my mother. Dominican women are strong, I know they are. My mother is the strongest women I know, and I know she'll beat this, and we're going to rejoice when she does. Love you guys, and I'll talk to you later."
The coronavirus has infected more than 438,000 people worldwide and killed more than 19,000. The COVID-19 illness causes mild or moderate symptoms in most people, but severe symptoms are more likely in the elderly or those with existing health problems. More than 111,000 people have recovered so far, mostly in China.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.