Healthy Florida teen who planned to get COVID-19 vaccine is now on a ventilator

·2 min read

Paulina Velasquez was a normal, active, energetic and “perfectly healthy” 15-year-old, her mother said. She planned on getting the COVID-19 vaccine, but days later she got the virus. Now she’s on a ventilator and in an induced coma.

Paulina, who has been in the ICU since July 17, took COVID-19 precautions very seriously, according to her mom, Agnes Velasquez.

“Anywhere she’d go, she was always wearing a mask.” Velasquez said. “She was always protective and careful about the virus, keeping her distance and using hand sanitizer, washing her hands. I have no idea how she contracted it.

“She was even asking, ‘Mommy, how is this possible? I was always wearing my mask. How did I get it?’”

Paulina, of Deerfield Beach, was set to start her sophomore year at J.P. Taravella High School in the fall. Her case is the latest example of a teenager or child testing positive for COVID-19.

In Florida, teens were testing positive at a higher rate than any age group during the first week of July at 6.7%. Only the most heavily vaccinated subgroups — 50 and older — had a positivity less than 5%.

Paulina’s mother also tested positive for COVID-19 and was initially feeling sick, but she said she’s feeling much better.

“As of today, we still have no word [about Paulina] from the doctors. They said it’s a long process and we just have to take it one step at a time and just be patient,” Agnes Velasquez said. “Maybe they’ll be able to give some update later this week, but at this time, it’s a slow process.”

Asked whether Paulina had ever had a health problem, she said, ““No, never. She was a perfectly healthy girl.”

Paulina’s brother Tomas Velasquez, 18, said Paulina is his best friend. When Paulina was first hospitalized, Tomas felt “complete shock. Not only me, but my whole family,” he said. “We were all in complete shock, knowing my sister was going through something so terrible.”

After Paulina gets out of the hospital, “we’re just going to support her in every way we can. We’re going to comfort her and tell her how amazing she is and how strong she is. She’s the strongest person I know.”

Agnes Velasquez urged others to take COVID-19 seriously to protect themselves and their loved ones.

“It’s heartbreaking seeing her like that in that condition, not being able to talk to me, not able to smile and tell me, ‘Mommy, I’m OK.’ I just want to encourage the public to take this virus seriously because it’s very, very dangerous,” she said. “If you’re able to get vaccinated, please do. That way, you can save, not only your life, but save other people’s lives.”

Austen Erblat can be reached at aerblat@sunsentinel.com, 954-599-8709 or on Twitter @AustenErblat.

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