A Florida family is urging the public to wear masks after their young daughter died from COVID-19 complications. Elizabeth McNew was just 12 years old when the illness took her life. Now, a community remembers a gentle and creative soul.
The McNew family had diligently followed guidelines to limit the spread of COVID-19, according to TODAY. They wore masks whenever they left the house, and Elizabeth and her older brother Liam both attended virtual school.
Elizabeth’s father Brad took extra precautions to avoid bringing the virus home from his law enforcement job. He would reportedly sanitize his shoes, wash his clothes and take a shower immediately upon returning home.
Still, Brad developed a cough in early September. He went to a doctor, assuming it was bronchitis, which he said he contracts frequently. However, tests revealed that Brad was positive for COVID-19.
Around the same time, Elizabeth started to show symptoms of her own — only much more pronounced than her father’s.
“Even though my husband tested positive, his symptoms were very mild to moderate,” said Elizabeth’s mom, Elda McNew. “It became clear that Elizabeth was not just having allergies… She came and said, ‘I can’t breathe exactly good.'”
Elda took her daughter to Wolfson Children’s Hospital, where she stayed by her side for 10 days. Doctors administered a tracheostomy and medication which limited the 12-year-old’s ability to communicate. Still, her mother did her best to comfort her.
“I wanted to tell her how many people loved her and that Daddy’s praying and [her] brother’s praying,” said Elda. “She would start crying… So I just began touching her and saying, ‘I’m here.'”
Despite doctors’ best efforts, Elizabeth passed away from complications related to the virus on September 25.
“Each one of the doctors or nurses… said, ‘I’m so sorry that I couldn’t do a better job,’ or ‘I couldn’t save her,'” said Elda. “I was like, ‘Are you kidding me? I saw you in there. You were doing everything.’ I was just absolutely stunned at the humbleness and veracity they had. They wanted to save her.”
Following Elizabeth’s passing, family, friends and neighbors gathered at the McNew home and set up luminary candles to honor her memory.
“The community presence and the love that has been showered upon us — it’s overwhelming,” Elda said at the vigil. “And it’s beyond beautiful. It shows how loving and giving she was, because everybody who sees her, they have a story of how she touched them, just in the littlest ways.”
Elizabeth’s parents also took time to urge the public to follow COVID-19 guidelines.
“To everybody out here who doesn’t believe that this is real, we lost my daughter, our daughter, his sister,” said Elizabeth’s father Brad. “It’s real. Put [a mask] on. If you don’t like it, put it on anyway. It will save your life or somebody else’s life.”
“We all need to think about each other,” Elda agreed. “Masks are uncomfortable and they’re annoying, and here in Florida, they fog up your glasses. I know it’s hard, but it’s harder to plan a funeral. It’s harder to watch your daughter struggle for breath for 10 days.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up by community members who remember Elizabeth as a kind and generous soul who loved art and music.
“She had friends everywhere,” her mother said. “She didn’t care if you were just born or 100 years old. She would stop and talk to you and give you a hug or help you.”