College Student, 20, Found Dead in Dorm Room After Testing Positive to COVID-19: 'This Loss Is Forever'
A 20-year-old student has died in her dorm room while in quarantine after testing positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
Bethany Nesbitt — a third-year psychology major at Grace College in Winona Lake, Indiana — was found dead in a residence hall on Friday around 10 a.m., her school confirmed in a statement.
Kosciusko County Coroner Tony Ciriello tells PEOPLE on Tuesday that Bethany tested positive for coronavirus, which can affect the pulmonary system, and her cause of death has been ruled as a pulmonary embolus.
Ciriello says COVID-19 "was a contributing factor" in her death.
Pulmonary embolus is a blockage caused by blood clots in one of the pulmonary arteries in the lungs, according to the Mayo Clinic. "COVID-19 can make blood cells more likely to clump up and form clots," its website notes.
A family statement tweeted out by Bethany's brother, Stephen Nesbitt, said that the Michigan native was asthmatic and began experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19 on the week of Oct. 20. She tested for the virus on Oct. 22, though the results were "never delivered, due to a clerical error," according to the family.
Bethany's family said she went to the emergency room on Oct. 26 "after a drop in her oxygen saturation," where doctors determined that she "very likely had COVID-19, but it was not a severe case and she seemed to be recovering."
On Oct. 28, Bethany told her relatives that she "had been fever-free for 24 hours and her oxygen levels were normalizing," according to her family.
Her family said Bethany was tested for COVID-19 again on Oct. 29 and went to bed after watching Netflix. The results of that test came back positive after her death.
Describing his beloved sister, Stephen said: "Bethany was the baby of our family, the youngest of nine. She loved Jesus. She loved memes. And she loved her family and friends until the very end."
In a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for a memorial scholarship in her honor, the Nesbitt family said Bethany "had been quarantined in her dorm room for 10 days" when she was found dead.
"She was a selfless and loving friend, a source of constant encouragement to all those around her. She had a passion for helping others, especially children, and her sassy sense of humor and wonderful laugh put them at ease," her family wrote in the fundraiser's description.
"She was a selfless and loving friend, a source of constant encouragement to all those around her," they continued. "She had a passion for helping others, especially children, and her sassy sense of humor and wonderful laugh put them at ease."
The family said in a statement on Tuesday that they were speaking out "not to spread fear, but to encourage others to exercise enormous caution as COVId-19 cases continue to rise."
"Please don't assume that young people will not be impacted by this virus," they said. "Bethany was careful. She wore a mask. She socially distanced. We urge you to follow health officials' protocols and precautions."
"The risk of gathering in large groups aren't worth it this year. There will be an empty seat at our table the next time our family comes together – and every time after that," the family added. "This loss is forever."
As of Tuesday, there have been more than 9,465,100 COVID-19 cases in the United States and at least 232,500 coronavirus-related deaths, according to a New York Times database.
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 CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org 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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