ARLINGTON, Texas — It was just going to be a small, casual get-together - a Nov. 1 birthday party with fajitas and cake for a cousin of Alexa Aragonez.
Alexa didn’t attend, but she gave her 57-year-old mother a ride to the party.
A total of 12 members of the Aragonez family were there.
Within days, all of them had COVID.
“The entire family decided, 'OK, because a few of us are feeling ill, let’s all get tested,'” Alexa said. “A total of 15 tested positive.”
Three family members who didn’t attend the party were infected by those who did.
The sick included two children and Enriqueta Aragonez, Alexa’s mom.
“I went to my nephew’s house and loved seeing my family, but now I’m fighting against COVID-19,” Enriqueta said in a video she recorded on her phone from her hospital bed.
“Please protect yourself,” she pleaded.
Enriqueta was the only family member who required hospitalization, and it was frightening for the rest of them.
“She’s the matriarch of our family,” Alexa said.
Enriqueta battled a fever of 103 degrees for a couple of days, before being diagnosed with pneumonia from the COVID infection.
She was hospitalized in a cardiovascular unit for almost a week.
“Her heart rate was at 160 at rest,” Alexa said.
“Seeing someone as strong and loving and as joyous as my mother go through that was a shock and it was excruciating. In front of her face we were really strong, behind closed doors we cried every day until she came home.”
The Aragonez family has deep roots in North Texas. Most members of the family live in Arlington. Alexa and her sister work for the City of Arlington.
They asked the City to share a video on social media featuring multiple members of the family describing their frightening experience, and asking people to take the virus seriously and stay home.
“We feel guilty for gathering,” Alexa's sister admitted to the camera.
Alexa warned families across Texas to think of them before following through on planned Thanksgiving gatherings.
“We were one of those families that took care of each other,” Alexa said. “We took every single precaution, with the exception of gathering.
"My family always said it won’t be us – we protect ourselves. All we do is go to work and come back home. We wear a mask, we wash our hands, so it’s OK for us to congregate.”
“We’d like to share the message that you are not immune. Your family is not immune. But by staying at home, you can prevent the spread of COVID-19. I plead for everybody to stay home.”