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TINLEY PARK, Ill. The mother of an 18-year-old woman who died of COVID-19 is speaking out, urging anyone who believes the virus is a hoax to think again.

Sarah Simental had abided by the guidelines, social distanced and had done everything right, yet still contracted the virus. Less than two weeks later, it took her life.

Simental had just turned 18 last month, and she was a senior at Lincoln-Way East High School in Frankfort.

Her family describes Sarah as a free spirit with a big heart, and someone whose life centered on her family, her friends, and her best buddy Bailey.

Less than two weeks ago, Simental developed a headache, before developing a sore throat and some congestion.

Following a positive COVID-19 test, Simental’s condition quickly worsened.

“It just continued and I took her to the ER early on the 23rd,” Simental’s mother said.

Christmas Day, Sarah was flown from Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox to University of Chicago Hospital.

24 hours later, Simental passed away from the virus.

Her parents, suited up in protective gear, were able to sit with her as she took her last breath.

“We had all the gear on, N95s and gowns, but they did allow us to go into the room so I could hold her hand and tell her it was okay,” Simental’s mother said.

As many head into New Year’s celebrations, the Simental family hopes others don’t let their guard down for the sake of having a good time.

“People need to remember that there’s going to be another Christmas, there’s going to be another New Year, but my daughter doesn’t get to have those anymore and we don’t get to celebrate those with her anymore,” Simental’s mother said.