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19-year-old may be El Paso’s youngest COVID-19 fatality

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UPDATE: Maria Rubio confirmed that the family got the COVID-19 test results for her daughter on July 23, approximately 15 days after Dariana Rubio was tested and three days after she had already died. Maria said results were inconclusive. The original story follows.

An El Paso family is waiting for their 19-year-old daughter’s COVID-19 test results while making her funeral arrangements. 

Dariana Rubio was having trouble breathing Monday afternoon, after multiple days experiencing cold-like symptoms. 

“It started off kind of like a cold,” Maria Rubio, Dariana’s mother, said in Spanish. “One day she was feeling fine, the next day she would feel a little sick, then the next day she felt fine, then the next she would feel sick until Monday when she woke up saying she was short of breath.”  

Translation: “Well, I felt awful and I was crying for her, but she kept telling me, ‘Mamá don’t cry, don’t cry.’ She didn’t want to see me cry but I was emotional seeing her so sick. But regardless she was conscience,” Maria Rubio said.
Dariana Rubio

That’s when Maria said they called for an ambulance to take their daughter to the emergency room. 

“Well, I felt awful and I was crying for her, but she kept telling me, ‘Mamá don’t cry, don’t cry.’ She didn’t want to see me cry but I was emotional seeing her so sick,” Maria said. 

Maria said her daughter was alert and conscious when the ambulance arrived to take her to the hospital, but her condition rapidly worsened. 

“Her heart had stopped halfway there. It happened so fast, so very fast,” Maria said. 

Maria said doctors informed her that Dariana had suffered COVID-19 complications due to her asthma. She said her daughter was tested for COVID-19 on July 8 after an acquaintance tested positive, but the test results have not come back. If her results are positive, Dariana would be the youngest person to die of COVID-19 in El Paso. 

Dariana was diagnosed with asthma when she was 8 months old. Due to her respiratory illness, Maria said her daughter had been extra careful to avoid exposure to the potentially deadly coronavirus. 

“She was very cautious. She would even get upset with me or with her sister because she would say we weren’t taking care of ourselves to the extent that she was,” Maria said.  

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, people with moderate to severe asthma may be at a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Deaths due to asthma alone are rare, especially among children and young adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Translation: “Right now I may be strong but there’s moments we’re completely devastated. There’s times I help my husband and daughter. Then there’s moments they help me,” Maria Rubio said.

El Paso city spokeswoman Laura Cruz-Acosta said deaths found to involve complications of COVID-19 are classified as deaths due to the novel coronavirus. It often takes weeks of investigation for the city to classify a death as COVID related. 

El Paso has reported 211 COVID-19 deaths as of Thursday. The youngest confirmed COVID-19 death in El Paso was a woman in her 20s.

Dariana graduated in 2019 from Canutillo High School, where she played on the softball team. Maria said her daughter had dreams of becoming a nurse. She said she’s sharing her daughter’s story to make young adults more aware of what is happening. 

“Many times young people think it won’t happen to them simply because they are young and they think they have their whole lives ahead of them. Yes, they have a whole life ahead of them but they need to take care of themselves, protect themselves,” Maria said. 

Angel Gomez, co-founder of Operation HOPE, has been helping families like the Rubios during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“This is the 140th family that we help with funeral arrangements due to the COVID,” Gomez said. “When they call me and say we only came up with $900 or $1,000 or whatever, then we step up.”

Gomez said he spoke with funeral homes in February to set up a rate that would help COVID-19 impacted families.  

“It’s getting worrisome and it’s getting sad because we were doing 80, 70 year olds, 75 year olds, 60s, now we’re getting young people 31, 42, 19,” Gomez said. 

Dariana is survived by her mother and father and a 17-year-old sister. 

Cover photo: Dariana Rubio was a 2019 graduate of Canutillo High School. She died at age 19 on Monday, July 20. (Photo courtesy of the Rubio family.)

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Claudia Tristán

Claudia Tristán previously worked as a television reporter for five years across Western Texas and New Mexico. She has experience in both English and Spanish television news. As a journalist, Tristán was most recently covered immigration in El Paso. Tristán left journalism to work in government and on political campaigns. She joined the office of New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. Later she worked on Beto O'Rourke's presidential campaign before joining Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx's reelection campaign. Tristán has centered her journalism career around immigration and politics to better keep communities informed.

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