Central Valley teen is California's first child to die from COVID, health officials say

A Central Valley teenager has died due to COVID-19 complications, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) said on Friday.
FRESNO, Calif. -- California health officials reported the state's first coronavirus death of a child on Friday, saying the victim was a teenager and had other health conditions.

Further information about the teen was not released. Valley Children's Hospital in Madera confirmed that the patient was being treated there before dying.

"The death of this patient reaffirms that children -- and no age group -- are not immune from the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic," the medical facility said in a statement. "It is imperative, now more than ever, for us to all work together to prevent further spread of this disease. Our children deserve no less."

The death comes as Central California coronavirus cases have continuously surged over the last several weeks, and as local politicians in Fresno County debate whether children should return to schools for in-person learning.

Valley Children's Hospital officials have spoken out against children returning to campuses while COVID-19 transmissions levels are still high in the area.

The Central Valley is the state's major agricultural region and recently has become one of California's hot spots for the virus.

It's extremely rare for children to die of the coronavirus. As of mid-July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 228 children had died of the disease in the U.S., less than 0.2% of the nation's deaths.

In California, more than 9,000 people have died from the virus, and three-quarters were 65 and older. Only about 9% of California's half-million confirmed virus cases are children, and very few have suffered conditions serious enough for hospitalization.

Scientists still aren't certain why children don't seem to be as seriously affected by the virus as adults.

In March, Los Angeles County officials said a 17-year-old boy died of the virus. At the time it was believed to be the first death of a child, but days later local health officials walked back the initial finding, saying it was possible he died from something else. County health officials said the case would need to be evaluated by the Centers for Disease Control.

Rex Parris, the mayor of Lancaster, said the boy from his city had died from septic shock after being admitted to the hospital with respiratory issues.

How likely children are to contract and spread the virus is a key question as leaders in California and elsewhere determine if and how to safely reopen schools this fall. Most California counties are now on a state monitoring list because of rising virus cases and and may not reopen schools for in-person instruction until they are off the list for 14 days.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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