A Texas family is warning others to take the coronavirus seriously this holiday season after 15 of them became ill following a small indoor birthday party.
The Aragonez family shared their warning in a video released by the City of Arlington on Thursday – two and a half weeks after they assembled unmarked for a celebration at a home in nearby Fort Worth on November 1.
All 12 people who attended the party tested positive for COVID-19, along with three other relatives who were not there.
Among those infected was 57-year-old Enriqueta Aragonez, who filmed her portion of the PSA video from a hospital bed where she is battling the virus and pneumonia.
‘I went to my nephew’s house and I loved seeing my family but now I’m fighting COVID-19,’ said Enriqueta with plastic oxygen tubes in her nose.
‘Please protect yourself. It’s real. ‘
Fifteen members of the Aragonez family (pictured) tested positive for a coronavirus after a small indoor birthday party in Fort Worth, Texas, on November 1. The family shared their harrowing experience with the virus in a public service announcement others to be more careful
Enriqueta’s daughter, Alexa Aragonez, 26, who did not attend the party because she has other plans and has not tested positive, explained her family’s suffering to the Washington Post on Sunday.
‘One moment of carelessness has cost us a month of peace, cost us sleep, cost us laughter, cost us a lot of money,’ he said.
Alexa said the family arranged the gathering for her cousin’s wife’s birthday on a day, after reflecting on their recent activities and deciding that together they had been vigilant about protecting themselves from the virus.
‘Everyone said yes, just because we’ve all been taking good care of ourselves since the start of the pandemic,’ he said.
‘Our family places a strong emphasis on looking after yourself every day so that we could see each other with more peace and not be afraid to contract COVID-19.’
Alexa Aragonez (pictured) said her family had arranged the gathering for her cousin’s wife’s birthday on a day, after reflecting on their recent activities and deciding that they had together been vigilant about protecting themselves against the virus
The original plan was to keep everyone outside, Alexa said, but as family members arrived they congregated in the living room and stayed there for the next few hours eating fajitas and chocolate cake – without masks.
‘It was real: “Hey, I’m coming in,” and everybody started talking,’ said Aragonez. ‘They naturally gravitated to the living room. We fell back into our old habits. ‘
The following day one of the party’s cousins texted a family group conversation, writing: ‘I didn’t wake up feeling good. How are you feeling? ‘
Three days later, everyone at the party – including a pregnant woman and four children under 12 – tested positive for COVID-19.
‘Everyone. He didn’t lose a single single, ‘says Alexa, adding that there were three other relationships they came into contact with after the party had also tested positive.
Alexa said the family suspects one of her cousins and her daughter may have fired the cases because they felt a little sick when they attended the party. Everyone countered the symptoms like allergies at the time, Alexa said.
Most of the infected relatives suffered mild cases – with soreness, tiredness, migraine and loss of sense of smell and taste.
But things got worse for Alexa’s mother, Enriqueta, who was diagnosed with severe pneumonia in both lungs on November 12.
The following day Enriqueta was rushed to a hospital in Arlington after coughing up blood as the virus took a toll on her heart.
He stayed there for the next week before being sent home to recover.
Enriqueta Aragonez, 57, suffered the most serious case of coronavirus out of anyone in the family, ending up in hospital for a week with pneumonia in both lungs. In the PSA video, filmed from her hospital bed, Enriqueta says: ‘I went to my nephew’s house and I loved seeing my family but now I’m fighting COVID-19. Please protect yourself. It’s real ‘
With her mother seemingly out of the woods, Alexa began to look for a way that her family story could be a lesson to other people planning a meeting for the holidays.
As a member of the City of Arlington’s communications department, Alexa decided to make a public service announcement.
She asked relatives to film short clips about their personal experience with the virus and the distress they feel while attending the birthday dinner.
‘When we took my mum to hospital, it broke our hearts. We feel guilty for conspiring, ‘said Alexa’s sister in the video.
Alexa finished the video with a moving call to action: ‘Don’t be like my family and ignore the CDC guidelines.
‘By staying apart, we can fight this virus together. The healing begins and ends with you. ‘
Alexa’s sister, who tested positive for the virus, says in the PSA video: ‘When we took my mother to hospital, we broke our hearts. We feel guilty about convening ‘
Two children in the Aragonez family (pictured) shared how they have been unable to play with their cousins after catching the virus
Alexa said she hopes the PSA will resonate with other families and encourage them not to hold reckless assemblies for Thanksgiving this week and Christmas next month.
‘We followed all the guidelines except seeing our core family,’ he told the Post.
‘We are just like any other family who believe that if they keep their social circle small then we will be safe. Unfortunately, that is not enough.
Addressing other families he said: ‘We need to get creative this holiday season.
‘Find ways to assemble virtually and safely. One does not need to be in the physical presence of others to feel intimate.
‘Adapting the way we celebrate this year’s holiday can guarantee us many more holidays in the future.’
The Aragonez family warning echoes those coming from health officials around the United States saying small assemblies have driven the nation’s recent surge in coronavirus outbreaks.
That trend is expected to worsen as the holiday season begins this week with Thanksgiving.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged Americans to avoid traveling and gathering with people outside their immediate family, fearing that such activities will exacerbate the crisis.
As of Monday morning there were more than 12.2 million coronavirus cases and 256,745 deaths.