CBS News veteran Maria Mercader has died from complications of COVID-19, the first media executive to die as a result of the pandemic.
The network confirmed that Mercader, 54, died Sunday in a New York hospital. A former producer who spent her career at the network, she was director of talent strategy at the news division.
Mercader, who lived in Manhattan, had been on medical leave from CBS since late February. She was a cancer survivor who had undergone numerous treatments and surgeries that left her among the most vulnerable to the coronavirus.
Mercader was involved in much of the network's coverage of foreign and domestic breaking news for three decades and lately helped shape talent strategy for the news division.
As a producer, Mercader played a key role in the network's coverage of the death of Princess Diana and the 9/11 terrorist attacks. She won an Emmy in 2004 for a "CBS Sunday Morning" piece on computer spam.
In her role as director of talent strategy, Mercader led the effort to improve workplace diversity at CBS News. She began her career at the network 30 years ago in the CBS page program.
"Even more than her talents as a journalist, we will miss her indomitable spirit," said Susan Zirinsky, CBS News president and senior executive producer. "Maria was part of all of our lives. Even when she was hospitalized and she knew something was going on at CBS, she would call with counsel, encouragement, and would say, 'You can do this.' I called Maria a 'warrior,' she was. Maria was a gift we cherished."
Al Ortiz, CBS News vice president of standards and practices, said, "Maria was one of the bravest, funniest, and most supportive colleagues most of us have ever known. She was a woman of strong faith with a clear sense of right and wrong."
Mercader is the second network TV news division employee to die from COVID-19. An NBC News technician, Larry Edgeworth, 64, died March 19. Like Mercader, Edgeworth also had other health issues.
CBS News has been hard hit by the virus, with more than six staffers testing positive. The network's programs have moved out of its West Side headquarters to broadcast from other locations.
Other media figures have tested positive for the virus including NBCUniversal Chief Executive Jeff Shell and Lucien Grainge, chairman and chief executive of Universal Music.
Mercader is survived by her father, Manuel, and brother, Manuel.