Chicago Family Who Lost Teen to COVID-19 Warns Young People to 'Be Careful'

A teenager with no apparent underlying health conditions has died from COVID-19.

Arnold Herrera, 19, from Chicago, Illinois, tested positive for the virus last week and was recovering at home, but his condition rapidly deteriorated at the turn of the year.

His older brother, Pablo Portilla, says Arnold was subsequently taken to University of Illinois Hospital, where he passed away at the weekend. Arnold's family says he had no underlying health conditions that they were aware of.

"I kept on praying that he was going to be better because I knew he was always strong. It wasn't in God's plan," Pablo told ABC Chicago.

"He told us 'Happy New Year,' and unfortunately after that he just had complications the full day. He was in pain, and we took him to the hospital, and that's that."

The vast majority of people who have lost their lives to COVID-19 have been either elderly or suffering from pre-existing health conditions, but significant numbers of healthy young adults and children have also died from the virus.

A research paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in December found that 11,899 more 25-44 year olds died in the U.S. from March to the end of July than expected, based on historical figures.

There is also evidence that certain racial and ethnic minority groups, such as Black, indigenous and Latinx people, are disproportionately affected by COVID-19, and that social inequities, including housing, occupation and wealth, can make certain groups of people more vulnerable to the virus than others.

"[COVID-19] doesn't discriminate on age. It just happens. And we should all be careful. We shouldn't think, 'Oh yeah, because I'm young, it's not going to happen to me,'" said Pablo.

He described his younger brother, who fixed cars for a living and played guitar at his church in Little Village, as having "a huge amount of energy" and an "I can" attitude.

Pablo has set up a GoFundMe page, where people can donate to the family and pay tribute to Arnold Herrera.

The U.S. coronavirus death toll has been rising sharply from early November and hit a record high just before Christmas, reaching a peak of 2,782 on December 22.

The death toll is forecast to surpass 500,000 within the next month.

By the end of December, an average of around 200,000 people were being vaccinated every day in the United States, but Dr. Anthony Fauci has said that it will need to reach a target of administering at least one million vaccinations every day in order to return to some form of "normality."

Man in face mask walking in Chicago
A man wearing a protective mask walks along Michigan Avenue on March 19, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. A 19-year-old from Chicago, who had no underlying health conditions, has become one of the latest victims of the virus. Scott Olson/Getty Images