‘Find Some Love and Compassion’

Facebook Elizabeth McNew

After the death of her 12-year-old daughter from COVID-19, a Florida mother is urging people to wear masks and “find some love and compassion for each other.”

Elizabeth McNew was a cheerful, creative child with “friends everywhere,” her mom, Elda, 49, told Today. “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.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the McNew family, who live in Atlantic Beach, near Jacksonville, were cautious — they wore masks in public and opted for virtual school for Elizabeth and her older brother Liam, 15. Elizabeth’s dad, Brad, works in law enforcement and he would carefully change and shower every time he came home.

But in early September, Brad started coughing, and Elizabeth started feeling congested. Brad tested positive for COVID-19, with “mild to moderate” symptoms, and Elizabeth’s symptoms worsened.

“It became very clear that Elizabeth was not just having allergies … She came and said, ‘I can’t breathe exactly good.’ ”

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Elda took Elizabeth to Wolfson Children’s Hospital, where her condition continued to decline. Elizabeth needed a tracheostomy to help her breathe, and was on pain medications. The hospital staff did everything they could think of for Elizabeth, Elda said, but “her [infection] seemed to just be more intense and a little more complicated.”

On Sept. 25, after 10 days in the hospital, Elizabeth died.

“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,’ ” Elda said. “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.”

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Adeline Fagan, who was in her second year of residency, tested positive for COVID-19 in July

Elda said that in the days since, the family has been going through “this intense anger and sadness.”

“Luckily, I’ve been drawing a lot on my faith,” she said.

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A friend set up a GoFundMe page to help with funeral expenses and hospital bills, and the family is hoping that Elizabeth’s story will convince others to wear a mask and help each other stay safe.

“To everybody out here who doesn’t believe that this is real, we lost my daughter, our daughter, his sister,” Brad told Action News Jax. “It’s real. Put [a mask] on. If you don’t like it, put it on anyway. It will save yours or somebody else’s life.”

“If you kept one germ droplet from just accidentally getting on another person, you have been a hero, and all it took was an annoying little mask,” Elda told TODAY. “I would like people to think of the Golden Rule: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ Because we need to find some love and compassion for each other.”

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from the WHO and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.

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