Aide Who Taught Students with Special Needs and Her Paramedic Brother Die of COVID-19 a Day Apart

Two public servants in Florida who were also brother and sister have died from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) just one day apart.

Gerald "Jerry" Jones, a paramedic, and Shyla Pennington, a teacher's aide who worked with children with special needs, died last week, CNN reported Friday.

Both Jones, 51, and Pennington, 41, worked in Volusia County, Florida, and are being remembered as integral to their communities.

"Volusia County just lost two public servants, and a family lost two of their loved ones, to COVID-19. Paramedic Gerald Jones and his sister, Teaching Assistant Shyla Pennington, are both gone too soon," said Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood in a statement.

"My heart breaks for their family. I'm praying they find peace and know that so many of us are wrapping our arms around them," Chitwood continued. "The human toll of COVID-19 is real, and these are the first responders and frontline workers who risk their own health and safety to keep our society functioning. No one has all the answers to this health crisis, but I pray we are doing enough to protect people like Gerald and Shyla. May their memories be a blessing. I am so grateful for their service to our community."

Jones worked in the county as a paramedic since 1999, and Pennington worked as a teacher's aide in the local school district for nearly 20 years.

"This is a tragic and devastating loss for the county and the entire EMS team throughout Volusia County," County Manager George Recktenwald said in a statement. "Jerry was respected and loved by all who knew him. Right now, our focus is on providing help and support to his family in their time of grief."

Pennington "was a dedicated employee who loved children and also was a devoted mother, daughter, sister, and friend to many," the district said in a statement, per CNN. "We are deeply saddened by her passing, and our hearts go out to her family, friends, and colleagues in Volusia County Schools."

A GoFundMe campaign set up for Jones' family has raised $16,655 out of a $25,000 goal as of Friday afternoon. 

It's unclear if Jones or Pennington — whose family did not immediately return PEOPLE's request for comment — suffered from any pre-existing medical conditions prior to contracting the virus.

People ages 65 and older are at a higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus, as are people with underlying medical conditions, including heart conditions, obesity, diabetes, liver disease and chronic kidney disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All but 6 percent of patients who needed hospitalization had one pre-existing condition, and the majority — 88 percent — had two or more, according to a large study of thousands of patients in New York City that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from the WHO and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.

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