By Miriam Raftery
February 9, 2021 (San Diego’s East County) – San Diego County health officials last week reported the death of a 10-year-old child from COVID-19, the first minor to succumb to the virus locally.
Although the County did not disclose details, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the victim was a 10-year-old Latino boy from East County. The newspaper indicated that the boy had underlying health conditions.
“Our deepest condolences go out to the family and friends of this child,” said Wilma J. Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “This boy’s death is a somber reminder that this pandemic impacts everyone in our community, regardless of their age, and we must do everything we can to protect each other and slow the spread of the virus.”
The Jan. 23 death wasn’t reported by the County until Feb. 5, the same date that the County reported 16 community outbreaks over the prior week, including two in K-12 schools and two in daycare/preschool settings.
The County did not report whether the boy was attending school in person prior to his death, or what school district he was enrolled in prior to his death. So the public is in the dark as to where the child may have contracted the deadly virus.
Several teachers, staffers and parents in the Cajon-Valley Union School District have contacted ECM to report concerns over the 585 COVID-19 cases that have occurred in district schools since September 8, 2020. The CVUSD district has 10,500 in-person students and 2,171 employees; 4.6% of all in person students and staff have contracted COVID-19.
CVUSD is operating under a blended model, with some students studying at home full-time, while others go to school some days and study at home on other days. Various protocols have been put in place to attempt to protect those in the classroom. But those who contacted ECM, who asked that their names not be published for fear of retaliation, voiced concern that the district had not closed down schools or classrooms.
By contrast, some other districts, such as Lemon Grove School District, have remained closed except for distance learning throughout the school year.
Other districts have reopened, but shut down schools promptly when COVID occurred; Alpine Union School District did so after only a single case.
For districts, the pandemic poses a no-win situation. Some parents have clamored for schools to reopen, particularly parents who can’t work from home nor leave children unattended. But others, fearful of their children contracting COVID and perhaps infecting more vulnerable family members, have balked at sending children back to school.
Teachers and education staff are next in line to receive vaccines under California’s Tier 2B, after seniors over age 65. But even once teachers are vaccinated, children will remain unprotected for the near future, since none of the vaccines have yet been approved for youths under age 16.
A clinical trial of children 12 and over is underway, after which a trial of youths age 6 and up is expected to occur, but it will likely be months before any vaccines for youngsters will be available.
Disturbingly, doctors at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego in January reported a surge in pediatric COVID-19 patients with multi-system inflammatory system or MIS-C, a rare but serious condition that causes inflammation of the heart, brain and other organs.
Since May, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports over 1200 cases of MIS-C nationwide and 23 children with MIS-C complications of COVID-19 have died.