15 relatives contract coronavirus after birthday celebration: ‘Don’t be like my family’

A Texas family is using their personal experience to warn others against gathering for celebrations ahead of Thanksgiving after 12 of them allegedly contracted coronavirus at a birthday dinner held earlier this month, eventually spreading it to three others who didn’t go to the party.

Alexa Aragonez, who according to the Star-Telegram works for the city of Arlington’s department of communication and legislative affairs, said she dropped off her 57-year-old mother at their relative’s house but didn’t attend the party herself. Aragonez, who was not one of the 15 diagnosed with COVID-19, said the family figured that since everyone was feeling healthy and keeping within the COVID-19 social guidelines, gathering to share a meal would be safe.

Days later, several of the family members began to feel sick and got tested for coronavirus. She told the Star-Telegram that it’s possible some of the attendees who attributed some sinus symptoms to seasonal allergies likely spread the virus to the others.

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Aragonez’s mother came down with the illness and had to be hospitalized, but has since been released. The family recorded a PSA that was shared by the city of Arlington on social media Friday. 

“I went to my nephew’s house and loved seeing my family, but now, I’m fighting against COVID-19,” Aragonez’s mother, Enriqueta, said in the video, recorded from her hospital bed.

“Now I’m in the hospital and can’t see my family,” she said.

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The other relatives who tested positive, which included all who attended the party, reflected on the diagnoses and noted the things they cannot do, such as hug spouses and see friends.

“All this pain that my family is feeling, this loneliness, this sickness, this longing to feel healthy, could have been prevented,” Aragonez said in the video. “Please don’t be like my family and ignore the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines. By staying apart, we can fight this virus together. The cure starts, and ends with you.”

She said the family decided to share their story despite the backlash it may bring because they didn’t think they weren’t engaging in risky behavior but ended up in a dangerous health situation.

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“It’s scary to think what if my entire family would have had the severe case and every single one of those 15 folks had to go to the hospital,” she told the Star-Telegram. “One, I would feel guilty for taking resources from people that really do need it, and two, I would be at risk of losing my entire family.”

Texas currently has a 10.59% testing positivity rate and has seen over 1.1 million cases of coronavirus, resulting in more than 21,000 deaths.