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Family shaken after 18 relatives test positive for COVID-19 after birthday party

WFAA-TV Dallas-Ft. Worth logo WFAA-TV Dallas-Ft. Worth 6/25/2020 Matt Howerton
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As North Texas watches COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surge, one family is shouldering a health crisis that they never expected to face. 

That crisis, all began on May 30 when just a single relative, unknowingly infected with COVID-19, interacted with seven family members at a surprise birthday party. 

Those seven family members then contracted and spread the virus to 10 other relatives. 

Now, Ron Barbosa is keeping track of 18 people in his family who have tested positive for COVID-19. 

Barbosa didn't attend the party himself, but the celebration was for his daughter-in-law who turned 30. 

However, Barbosa's nephew hosted. 

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That nephew is the one who was unknowingly infected, thinking a slight cough was the byproduct of working in construction. 

Before the party, he played golf with a few family members who also attended the event, according to Barbosa. 

Even though everyone did their best to stay socially distant, Barbosa said it wasn't enough. 

"It wasn't that long. It was only a couple of hours," Barbosa, a volunteer EMT said. "But during that brief time, somehow the other 18 family members are now infected with COVID." 

Barbosa, who is also married to a doctor, said he and his wife refused to go to the party due to safety reasons. 

However, it was a party that by current state health standards appeared harmless. A total of 25 people attended, and not all of them arrived and stayed for the same duration. 

"When people started getting sick, we really let everyone have it," Barbosa said. "We knew this was going to happen, I mean this whole time this has been going on we've been terrified." 

Among those infected are two young children, two grandparents, a cancer patient and Barbosa's parents, who are in their 80s. 

Three are now hospitalized: Barbosa's parents Frank and Carole, along with his sister Kathy, who is battling breast cancer. 

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Kathy, per Barbosa, is recovering and feeling better, despite contracting the virus while simultaneously undergoing chemo treatments. 

He says she went to the party and got infected, even though she was socially distanced outside on a porch. 

But Barbosa's parents are in a much tougher situation. 

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Frank and Carole are highschool sweethearts and have been married almost 68 years. 

Barbosa said it's likely Carole infected Frank after she stopped by the party to drop something off. 

Carole has been hospitalized since June 13, and Frank has been in a hospital since June 17. 

Frank is in the ICU and is on life support. Barbosa told WFAA that he is inches away from being put on a ventilator. 

"My dad's hanging on by a thread," Barbosa said. "They're saying this is one of the last straws for my dad." 

Visitation is mostly restricted, meaning calls to Barbosa's parents are vital. 

"That's really the best medicine. You know they're in there by themselves with no family," Barbosa said holding back tears. "It's heartbreaking." 

Need for Plasma 

Barbosa told WFAA that his father is in need of blood plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients, who have established antibodies. 

However, Barbosa said that doctors have informed him that there's not a lot of it right now. 

On Facebook, a plea for help from Barbosa was answered by a few firefighters once infected with COVID-19, who were willing to donate. 

But he quickly learned that they couldn't donate their plasma for one specific person because there was a shortage. 

WFAA is now researching if that's the case with blood banks across the Dallas-Fort Worth area. 

In the meantime, Barbosa is using the phrase 'Frank Alert' to raise awareness about the need for more blood plasma with COVID-19 antibodies. 

"If you've recovered...go donate your plasma," Barbosa said. 

Other than his sister and parents, Barbosa said that his family is mostly recovering. 

In just a matter of weeks, they've gone through multiple emotions in this COVID-19 cautionary tale -- starting with anger. 

"We were horrified. People couldn't believe that they took it to a family member," Barbosa said. 

"But now, we're holding on together."

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Video: Texas Children's Hospital accepting adult patients (KHOU-TV Houston)

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