Mid-South family warns against large gatherings after battling COVID-19

TIPTON COUNTY, Tenn. — We now better understand how a family gathering during this pandemic can spread the coronavirus without them even knowing it.

One big, loving family in Tipton County found out the hard way, even in the middle of a celebration of love, the virus doesn't slow down. In fact, for them, it accelerated.

Nine members of the Jones family from Drummonds, Tenn. tested positive for COVID-19.

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They shared their story with FOX13’s Mearl Purvis in hopes of preventing a repeat of the same saga for another family.

April 12, nine members of the Jones family of Tipton County shared Easter dinner.

“I started getting a chill, and fever and started sweating,” Johnnie Jones, III said.

10 days later, one by one, family members started showing symptoms of coronavirus.

“My daughter said, ‘mom, you look bad. Get in the car.’ And she took me to the emergency room,” Trena Jones told FOX13.

The Jones family shows up to support each other. A photo of the family shows the 2018 Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame induction of Johnnie Jones, III.

He is the first football player in UT history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a single season.

But Jones, now a Munford High School coach and law enforcement officer, out-distanced death but couldn't outrun COVID-19.

“It was just our family,” he said. “It was just that group for Easter.”

April 24, 12 days after Easter, all nine family members from the holiday dinner tested positive for coronavirus.

The health department advised them to quarantine at home. They said they followed strict orders.

Friday, May 1, 19 days after Easter, Johnnie Jones’s dad and family patriarch, who has diabetes, was rushed to a hospital.

“My wife changed the bedding 3 or 4 times. I was taking Tylenol, but the fever kept coming back,” he said.

The next day, Coach Jones was rushed to Methodist North in Memphis.

“The day they took my husband in that ambulance, he couldn't even look at me,” Trena Jones said. “I get teared up… I'm sorry, but I didn't think I was gonna see my husband again.”

Her troubles got worse. The next day their daughter Johnna took her to the hospital.

“And I got a glance of her looking at me, and me not knowing if I was gonna see him or her again,” Trena Jones said.

“I almost lost my parents, my grandparents to this, and I just wouldn’t want anybody else to lose their loved ones,” said Johnna Jones.

Grandma Jones was admitted the following day.

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“I can’t say thank you enough to every nurse we had," said Trena Jones.

FOX13 spoke with nurse Cassidy Cruse and asked if she remembered the Jones.

“Oh yeah, I remember them walking out together with a sign,” she said. “And they were like bye and they got to hold hands.”

The Joneses said the nurses became their family during the separation, pain, and anxiety of trying to survive Coronavirus.

“That’s a big part of your healing process is your family, friends, and chaplain being involved in your care,” said nurse Jennifer Webb.

Almost a month after that big Easter family gathering, everyone was released from the hospital.

Five relatives never developed any symptoms, even though they tested positive for the virus.

But they're all positive of the advice they have for others as we head into the Memorial Day weekend.

“Wear a mask!” said Trena Jones.

And they said wait to have big gatherings but don't wait to get hospital treatment.

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“Pneumonia, I had in both lungs,” Johnnie Jones said.

Trena Jones said, ”We all did. We were quarantining, and his doctor told him you waited too late. You should have been here 9 days ago.”

Wednesday will mark 10 days after Mother’s Day gatherings.

If you have a fever or even feel unusually tired, get a Coronavirus test.

And Memorial Day weekend starts in 4 days.

The Jones family advises, if you have a large family gathering, wear a mask, even with family. Or, just wait until the next holiday.

Obviously, you can survive Coronavirus, but is it worth the risk?

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