Duval County

12-year-old Atlantic Beach girl dies of COVID-19, family says

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — An Atlantic Beach family is mourning the loss of a 12-year-old girl. The parents of Elizabeth McNew, 12, say she died after her battle with COVID-19.

Loved ones and community members held a vigil, with candles in luminary bags, at the family’s home to show their support.

“It’s amazing the legacy she created in 12 years, and she wasn’t doing anything but giving out hugs and being kind to people,” said her mother, Elda McNew.

“Just being a good girl, what we taught her to do,” said her father, Brad McNew.

The family tells us McNew died this morning after battling the virus for ten days. They say she was a student at Mayport Coastal Sciences Middle School but was learning virtually from home.

“Those fabulous doctors and nurses and all those staff members there worked so hard,” said Elda. “They worked until they had to make each other stop.”

Her father, Brad, shared this message to the community.

“To everybody out here who doesn’t believe that this is real, we lost my daughter, our daughter, his sister,” said Brad. “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.”

Her brother, Liam, spoke to Action News Jax as well.

“Don’t ever think that they are gone forever. Always think of it as a see you next time or a see you later,” said Liam.

The family tells Action News Jax Reporter Ryan Nelson, Elizabeth’s memory, and the support of the community, bring them strength.

“The community presence and the love that has been showered upon us. It’s. It’s overwhelming. And it’s beyond beautiful,” said Elda. “… 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.”

This is the first pediatric death related to COVID-19 in Duval County according to Florida Department of Health data.

Mayport Coastal Sciences Middle School’s principal, Chris J. Koek, sent an email to Mayport parents and staff, describing the news, and saying grief counselors would be made available. His complete message can be found at the end of this article.

An effort to support the family at this time is underway on GoFundMe.

Mayport Coastal Sciences Middle School’s principal:

"Good afternoon Parents and Guardians of Mayport Middle School. This is principal Koek.

It is with a heavy heart that I share with you that one of our students in our Duval HomeRoom program has unexpectedly passed away. We are deeply saddened by this loss.

I’m calling so that you are aware that counseling is available for your child, if needed, both on campus and remotely.

These counselors will be available on campus this afternoon and Monday morning for students enrolled in face-to-face learning.

If your child is enrolled in Duval HomeRoom, and needs grief counseling support, you can call the Crisis Hotline at 904-390-2535 for distance grief counseling. Again that number is 904-390-2535.

If you would prefer that your child not participate in any of the on campus grief counseling activities, please contact us at the school. Your child is important to our school community and we want to do what you deem best for him or her. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have additional questions or concerns. Thank you and have a good afternoon.

Chris J. Koek