'It's a nightmare I never imagined living': Durham family mourns death of 8-year-old, first child to die from COVID-19 in North Carolina

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Eight-year-old Aurea Soto Morales loved the beach, playing in the snow and dancing.

She's the first child to die of COVD-19 in North Carolina. Her family in Durham is devastated.

"It's awful," her 17-year-old sister, Jennifer, said. "I wasn't expecting a child to die, especially not my sister."

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Her family said that after four days at UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill, Morales passed away June 1 from complications associated with COVID-19. Her family called her "Yoshi," because of her middle name "Yolotzin."

"I didn't get to see her...her last minutes, which is terrible not being able to be next to her," her sister said.

"It's a nightmare I never imagined living," her mother, Araceli Morales Martinez, said in Spanish, as she cried. "It's such a large pain. I ask all mothers take care of their children, please."

The entire family was diagnosed with COVID-19. First her mother and father, Salvador Soto. Then the sisters. Morales also had strep throat and was hospitalized.

The family said they don't know where they contracted coronavirus and that the sisters were mostly spending time at home during the pandemic. Araceli is a stay-at-home mother and the girls' father works in construction as an electrician.
In a news release from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, State Epidemiologist Dr. Zack Moore said: "While most COVID-19 cases in children are not severe, this is a tragic reminder for all of us that COVID-19 can be a serious illness for anyone. We want to encourage people to protect themselves and others by wearing face coverings, waiting at least six feet apart and washing hands often whenever you leave home."

Data from NCDHHS shows nearly 8 percent of cases in the state are among children and that Morales is the only child in the state who has died from COVID-19.

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Harold Lassiter, a Fayetteville local, underwent the treatment after battling the virus for the last three weeks at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center.



The community set up a GoFundMe page to help the family with medical bills and funeral services. They've already raised more than $40,000.

"It's very overwhelming, a lot of overwhelming support," her sister said. "I wish there was a way to say thank you to each individual who helped us."

The family is hoping to have a memorial service at Creekside Elementary School, where Morales was in the second grade. They say she loved school.

"She was always an intelligent child," her dad said.
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