RICHMOND, Va. - The Virginia Department of Health confirmed an adolescent from the Southside Health District who tested positive for COVID-19 has died.
This is the first reported COVID-19 death of a child in the Commonwealth, the VDH said.
The state confirmed the death late Friday afternoon and said it will be reflected on Saturday’s data dashboard.
According to the VDH, the patient was in the age range of 10 to 19 years old.
“We were extremely saddened to learn of the loss of the state’s first adolescent with COVID-19," said State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, M.D., M.A. "On behalf of all of us at VDH, I extend sincere condolences to the teenager’s family and loved ones. No age group is immune from the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and this unfortunate event, along with the increasing numbers of coronavirus cases we are seeing in some areas of the Commonwealth, is a reminder that we all need to do our part to help slow the spread of virus in the community.”
This youngest person to die from COVID-19 in the Commonwealth comes six months after the start of the pandemic and more than 2,700 confirmed deaths.
Pediatrician and medical director of CHKD Medical Group Dr. Doug Mitchell said the number of children dying from the virus is rare but not surprising.
“It’s awful,” he said. “We don’t want any deaths. The data we have from U.S. so far shows pediatric deaths are unusual but not zero.”
The state health department said the COVID-positive patient lived in the Southside Health District, made up of Brunswick, Halifax and Mecklenburg Counties. No other details were released out of respect for the family.
Across the U.S. there have been 84 COVID-19 deaths reported to the CDC for people under the age of 17.
Dr. Mitchell said the risk of children dying from the virus is much less than adults.
“The younger children and younger adults do not have the same bad outcomes that occur in older adults in those high-risk groups,” he said. “In the data we see so far, surprisingly, is that asthma does not seem to be a risk factor for a worse outcome.”
Children, however, can still easily contract COVID-19. CHKD recommends anyone two years old and older should wear a mask to slow the spread.
“If a child cannot remove a mask themself, then they probably should not have a mask on and any other sort of ear, nose and throat conditions,” Mitchell said. “There are some children with developmental issues that a mask for sensory issues, are not able to tolerate it.”
Dr. Mitchell also recommends getting the flu vaccine, so there is less confusion with symptoms of COVID-19.
“Flu is still there; it’s still real,” he said. “As we head into flu season, it’s even more important this year that everyone does what they can to protect themselves from the flu by getting flu vaccines.”
To lower the risk of spreading respiratory infections, including COVID-19, the Virginia Department of Health encourages everyone to stay home as much as possible, wear a cloth face covering in public, practice social distancing and wash your hands frequently.