Two years ago, this video of classmates hugging each other before a weekend break struck a chord and went completely viral. At last check, the feelgood clip had racked up some 24 million views:
The woman who posted it in November 2018, Zelene Blancas, was a teacher in El Paso, where she was much loved by her school as well as by the broader community, according to the New York Times. She died this week of complications from COVID-19 at just 35 years old.
Blancas tested positive for the virus on Oct. 20 and was hospitalized a few days later, her brother explained to the Times. She eventually exhausted all her sick leave and paid time off and turned to the internet for help paying her health care with a GoFundMe page.
“Her calling was just to spread kindness,” Cristina Sanchez-Chavira told the Times. “I think education was the vehicle that she found, but that was her. She embodied kindness, and making others feel special. And she did that in and outside of the classroom.”
Blancas, otherwise healthy, had shown signs of recovery early on and was making progress before her condition worsened. She was intubated on Nov. 22, her brother told CNN.
According to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University as of Sunday, more than 350,000 people in the United States have died from COVID-19.