The Aragonez family wanted nothing more than to get back to life as normal, and after eight months of caution allowed themselves a single exception: a low key birthday party attended by 12 people.
Yet what started as an impromptu celebration turned into a nightmare, as all 12 members of the family who attended the 1 November event in Texas were infected with coronavirus, as well as three others who they came in contact with later.
The family has now released a video warning people ahead of Thanksgiving not to repeat their mistake.
“We’re just like any other family that takes care of themselves, day in and day out, that thinks they’re safe with their own family and they let their guard down,” Alexa Aragonez, 26, of Arlington, Texas, told Good Morning America. “This is a prime example of what not to do and what happens all too often.”
Those infected included children and Ms Aragonez’s 57-year-old mother, Enriqueta, who experienced more serious complications. She was hospitalised for seven days with cardiovascular symptoms.
“I am quite fortunate that I can say that I didn’t lose 15 members of my family,” Ms Aragonez said. “A lot of people in this nation are not as fortunate.”
She described how her family had taken every single precaution since the beginning of the pandemic: they wore masks; skipped church services and avoided going to bars.
They finally agreed to the invite in a spur of the moment decision after her cousin texted, asking them over for fajitas and birthday cake.
While it started as an outdoor event, family members quickly let their guard down during the gathering and started drifting in to the kitchen and elsewhere out of force of habit.
Ms Aragonez’s mother started experiencing symptoms two days after the party and texted the group. It was then that everyone got tested for Covid, and the results all came back positive.
Enriqueta Aragonez was diagnosed with pneumonia in both lungs after being taken to hospital with high fever and breathing difficulties, and was eventually put on oxygen.
Ms Aragonez said her young cousins, who were in great heath, also experienced difficulties. They had laboured breathing and couldn’t play, run around.
The family said the experience had been traumatising, and compelled them to speak out.
“One life that is lost that could have been prevented by not gathering is one life too many, and one life is worth just staying at home,” said Ms Aragonez.
“Think about how much you love each other, for you not to infect each other. That’s what my family is talking about nowadays,” she adds.