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California health officials say Central Valley teenager is the state’s first child to die of coronavirus



FRESNO, California – California health officials reported the state’s first coronavirus death of a child Friday, saying the victim was a teenager and had other health conditions.

No further information about the teenager was released. Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera confirmed that the patient was treated there before he died.

“This patient’s death reaffirms that children – and no age group – are immune to the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the medical facility said in a statement. “It is imperative, now more than ever, that we all work to prevent the further spread of this disease. Our children deserve no less.”

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The death comes as coronavirus cases in Central California have been steadily rising over the past several weeks, and as local politicians in Fresno County discuss whether children should return to schools to learn in person.
Officials at Valley Children’s Hospital have spoken out against children returning to campus while COVID-19 transmission levels remain high in the area.

Central Valley is the state’s largest agricultural region and has recently become one of California’s hotspots for the virus.

It is extremely rare for children to die from coronavirus. As of mid-July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 228 children had died from the disease in the United States, less than 0.2% of the country’s deaths.

In California, more than 9,000 people have died from the virus, and three-quarters were 65 years of age or older. With approx. 9% of California’s half a million confirmed virus cases are children, and very few have conditions that are serious enough to be hospitalized.

Researchers are still unsure why children do not appear to be as severely affected by the virus as adults.

In March, Los Angeles County officials said a 17-year-old purchase died of the virus. At the time, it was believed to be a child’s first death, but days later, local health officials went back with the original finding, saying it was possible he died of something else. County health officials said the case should be evaluated by the Centers for Disease Control.

Rex Parris, the mayor of Lancaster, said the boy left his town and died of septic shock after being hospitalized with difficulty breathing.

How likely it is that children will contract and spread the virus is an important question as leaders in California and elsewhere decide whether and how they can safely open schools in the fall. Most California counties are now on a state watch list due to rising virus cases and and may not open schools for personal instruction until they are out of the list for 14 days.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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