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'It's Been Heartbreaking': 15 Family Members Battle COVID-19 After A Small Gathering In North Texas

The Aragonez family gathered for a birthday party this November. Then all 12 family members in attendance got sick with COVID-19. Now, they're warning others to not make the same mistake they did.
The Aragonez family gathered for a birthday party this November. Then all 12 family members in attendance got sick with COVID-19. Now, they're warning others to not make the same mistake they did.

Alexa Aragonez has a message for North Texas families planning to get together for the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday — “Please, don’t be like my family and ignore the CDC guidelines,” she said in a video shared by the City of Arlington. “By staying apart, we can fight this virus together.”

The 26-year-old knows first-hand how dangerous a family gathering can be during a pandemic, because earlier this month she said 15 of her family members contracted the coronavirus after a small indoor birthday celebration where no one wore masks. She said all 12 family members who attended the celebration contracted the virus, as well as three others who weren't at the event.

“One moment, you’re okay and you’re breaking bread and having fajitas,” she told KERA. “And the next moment, the matriarch of your family is feeling sick and ill, and it’s been heartbreaking.”

Enriqueta Aragonez, Alexa’s mother, is the person suffering the most from this breakout.

“I went to my nephew’s house and loved seeing my family, but now, I’m fighting against COVID-19,” Aragonez said in a video message. “Please protect yourself. It’s real.”

Enriqueta was the only family member who required hospitalization. She battled a 103-degree fever for days. Eventually, Enriqueta was diagnosed with pneumonia spurred by a COVID-19 infection. She was in the hospital for almost a week.

“Seeing someone as strong and loving and as joyous as my mother go through that was a shock and it was excruciating,” Alexa told WFAA. “ In front of her face we were really strong, behind closed doors we cried every day until she came home.”

Enriqueta is out of the hospital now, but Alexa said, her mother’s not quite back to normal.

“Luckily, she doesn’t need to have oxygen anymore,” Aragonez told KERA. “But she is on heart medication and needs to take things very slow. This morning, when we were on FaceTime, she said she still had a lot of pain in her chest and is still really exhausted from everything.”

The rest of the Aragonez family is also getting a lot better, Alexa said.

“Most everyone who was infected still has that exhausted feeling and pain in their chest,” she said. “But, you know, they’re not ‘okay.’ But they’re doing decent.”

Alexa Aragonez, fortunately, was not at the party and did not get sick. Still, she’s learned a lot from this experience.

“I think we need to pay attention to those around us and how much we care about each person in our lives,” she said. “Because we need to start making creative plans for this upcoming holiday. It’s not all about you and how much you want to see your family. Everyone’s exhausted. But this pandemic is not over. It will be one day. But it’s not over yet.”

The Aragonez family plans to celebrate Thanksgiving virtually this year. They recommend you do the same.

Got a tip? Email Hady Mawajdeh at hady@KERA.org. You can follow Hady on Twitter @hadysauce.

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Copyright 2020 KERA. To see more, visit KERA.