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Tyler Perry loses longtime crew member to COVID-19, begs black people to 'take this seriously'

Many have said he was one of the greatest hair and makeup artists in the TV and film industry.

ATLANTA — Hours after Tyler Perry surprised shoppers at Kroger across the state by paying for their groceries, the media mogul is mourning the loss of one of his own crew members.

He said on Facebook that Charles Gregory, a hairstylist that had worked with his company for many years, lost has battle with COVID-19

"The man was warm, loving and hilarious," Perry wrote. "We all loved to see him coming and hear his laughter. It saddens me to think of him dying this way. My sincerest prayers are with his family."

According to his website, Gregory was an Emmy-nominated celebrity hair stylist and wig designer. 

On March 25, Gregory shared on Instagram that he was diagnosed with the deadly virus and said "This is no joke people." That same day, he posted a photo of himself on oxygen and wearing a face mask. 

In his Facebook post, Perry went on to pen a personal letter to the black community, begging them to take coronavirus serious. 

"Dear Black People," he started the letter. 

"While everyone can contract this virus it is black people who are dying from it in much larger numbers," he wrote. "This thing is real, black people."

He said he heard a black person say "Black people don't get it." Perry quickly debunked that theory.

"Black people, we are at a disproportionately higher risk of dying from this virus. Please, please, please, I beg you to take this seriously. You have to socially distance yourself. That means stop hanging out, stop congregating, stop doing anything that will put not only your life in danger but also the lives of so many others."

The news of Gregory's passing quickly spread.

"I got speechless" said Renee Knorr, Ebony Fashion Fair Model. "Not only did he open up his arms, he opened up his heart."

"One of the things I love about Charles is he wasn’t a person who was selfish, unconditional love is what he gave to so many of us in the fashion, film and beauty industry," Knorr said.

Gregory also mentored countless cosmetologists, like Sedric Lenard, owner of the East Atlanta Beauty Bar. 

"He inspired me so much as far as the encouragement," Lenard said. 

Actress Viola Davis said on Twitter that he did her hair for the Academy Awards, 'Lila and Eve' and 'Madea Goes to Jail.' 

"Another loss from the deadly Coronavirus. Rest well. May God’s peace be with your family. You were a jewel," she said.

Others took to social media and many said that Gregory was one of the greatest hair and makeup artists the TV and film industry will ever have. 

Perry concluded his letter to black people with this message:

"STAY HOME!! Socially distance yourself and stay alive! If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for someone you love, and for those who love you. My Mother always told me to not wait for help! Be your own help!"

11Alive reported this week that black people in Georgia appear to be dying from the virus at a higher rate than other races.

According to the state, as of April 7, 104 black Georgians have died, compared to 88 whites, and seven listed as other. Georgia's latest census data shows that the state's population is 32 percent African-American and 60 percent white. 

However, the numbers need an important context. The state is reporting that there were 108 deaths of an unknown race. The DPH said that's as a result of that information not being initially recorded. The department said is going back in an attempt to get more accurate information. 

RELATED: This is a breakdown of Georgia's coronavirus-related deaths

All of it illustrates a grim reality that is tied to the long-standing health disparities experienced by African-Americans in the health system, according to Dr. Anthony Fauchi, the director of NIAID and an integral member of the President's coronavirus task force.

"We've known, literally forever, that diseases like diabetes, hypertension, obesity and asthma are disproportionately affecting the minority populations, particularly African-Americans," Fauchi said, during Tuesday's Coronavirus Task Force Briefing.

Fauchi explained that those underlying health conditions are among those that make a person much more susceptible to contracting the coronavirus and getting seriously ill, and even dying.

11Alive is focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus. We want to keep you informed about the latest developments while ensuring that we deliver confirmed, factual information.

We will track the most important coronavirus elements relating to Georgia on this page. Refresh often for new information.

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