‘We Were Cut Short of His Time Here’

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A special education teacher in New Mexico is dead after contracting the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), according to his family.

Leo Lugo, 56, died on Sunday after he was hospitalized on a ventilator and placed in a medically induced coma, ABC affiliate KVIA reported.

The outlet reported that the Chaparral High School educator was among six relatives, including his 91-year-old mother, who tested positive for COVID-19.

“He was a great guy. We didn’t expect Leo to go like this,” his brother Mike Lugo said. “It took my brother, and it took him only a week to go.”

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According to Lugo’s sister-in-law, every day got “worse and worse and worse until the end” for the teacher.

“This is real,” Bertha Lugo said of the coronavirus. “We were cut short of his time here.”

Lugo began feeling ill while preparing his classroom for the potential return of students from the fall break, which began on Sept. 19, according to a news release from the Gadsden Independent School District obtained by PEOPLE.

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The teacher, who had been a faculty member at Chaparral High School for a little over a year, was hospitalized for two weeks when he died, school officials said.

Prior to his career in education, Lugo had worked as a Spanish language radio host in El Paso, Texas, for over 20 years.

Chapparal High School principal Victoria Lopez described Lugo as a “very kind and caring individual who truly wanted the best for his students” in the release.

“His enthusiasm was infectious and was always ready to help his fellow special teachers or any teacher in his hallway,” Lopez said in a statement. “He cared for his students as if they were his own.”

A spokesperson for the Gadsden Independent School District confirms to PEOPLE that the campus was cleaned and sanitized after Lugo reported his symptoms.

“Gadsden ISD just approved postponing re-entry of all students and remaining remote/online instruction for the entire fall 2020 semester,” a spokesperson for the school board tells PEOPLE in a statement, adding that a board member cited Lugo’s death as a factor in their decision to postpone reentry during Thursday night’s board meeting.

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