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Coronavirus kills teacher's aide, 41, and her paramedic brother 1 day apart

"My heart breaks for their family," the county sheriff said. "These are the first responders and front-line workers who risk their own health and safety to keep our society functioning."
Paramedic Gerald Jones and his sister, teaching assistant Shyla Pennington.
Paramedic Gerald Jones and his sister, teaching assistant Shyla Pennington.via GoFund Me; Dignity Memorial

A Florida teacher's aide who was dedicated to working with special needs students, and her brother, a paramedic, died from the coronavirus one day apart, their father said in a series of Facebook posts.

Shyla Pennington, 41, a teacher's assistant with the Volusia County School District, died Sept. 19, just one day before the death of her brother, Gerald Jones, a paramedic for the county. Gerald was 51, according to a Facebook post by the county's emergency medical services.

"Rest in peace, my children." the father, Greg Jones, wrote on Facebook on Sept. 20. "This is not right."

The county sheriff also posted about the deaths of the brother and sister, who he said worked on the front lines to serve others during the pandemic.

"Volusia County just lost two public servants, and a family lost two of their loved ones, to COVID-19," Sheriff Mike Chitwood posted on Facebook on Sept. 22. "My heart breaks for their family ... The human toll of covid-19 is real, and these are the first responders and front-line workers who risk their own health and safety to keep our society functioning."

Pennington was rushed to the hospital Sept. 11 when she started having trouble breathing, Greg Jones said on Facebook. Just two days later, Gerald was diagnosed with the coronavirus and also hospitalized.

"When it rains it pours," Greg Jones wrote in a Sept. 13 post. "Our son Gerald Jones has been admitted to the hospital with Covid19 so please send your prayers for him as well as our daughter Shyla Pennington."

During the siblings' battle with the virus, there were brief glimpses of hope for the family. In a post last week, Greg Jones wrote that his son was showing signs of improvement. But things quickly took a turn for the worse.

"Our daughter Shyla Pennington is now with God," Greg Jones wrote in a Sept. 19 post. "She lost her battle with COVID19. I would like to thank everyone who prayed and supported her."

The following day, he announced the death of his son. Greg Jones could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.

An online obituary for Pennington said she enjoyed working with special needs children. Among her passions was her son, Phillip, and her students, it said.

It is not clear where either she or her brother contracted coronavirus.

Pennington worked as a teacher's aide in a special education classroom at Sugar Mill Elementary in Port Orange in the school district that reopened Aug. 31 with a mix of both in-person classes and remote learning.

Greg Jones told the Daily Beast that Pennington, who lived with her brother, Gerald, was not afraid to return to work for in-person classes.

“I even asked her, I said, ‘I’m worried about you,’” he told the outlet. “But she said, ‘No, don’t worry about me, I’m good.’”

The school district did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

The district released a statement to the Daily Beast calling Pennington a “dedicated employee who loved children and also was a devoted mother, daughter, sister, and friend to many.”

“We are deeply saddened by her passing, and our hearts go out to her family, friends, and colleagues in Volusia County Schools,” the district said.

The county's emergency medical services director issued a statement on the loss of Gerald.

"It is with deep regret that VCEMS Director Jason Brady announces the passing of Paramedic Gerald Jones of Volusia County EMS on September 20, 2020. At this time the family asks that you respect their privacy as they mourn the loss of Gerald," he wrote in a statement.