California teen’s suspected coronavirus-related death would be one of youngest in US

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A 17-year-old California resident’s death related to the novel coronavirus could be one of the youngest in the U.S. to date.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced three new deaths related to the novel virus, or COVID-19, including the 17-year-old from Lancaster, Calif. But later the same day, the health department back-peddled, saying in an updated statement that his or her death “will require further evaluation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

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“Though early tests indicated a positive result for COVID-19, the case is complex and there may be an alternate explanation for this fatality,” health department officials said in the updated statement. If confirmed by the CDC, however, the fatality would mark the first known instance of a minor dying from the virus in the U.S.

Mayor R. Rex Parris of Lancaster said the teen, who was reportedly healthy and did not have any underlying health issues, went to a local hospital after he began to experience “acute respiratory problems,” the New York Times reported. He was treated but was purportedly released from the hospital without being tested for the virus, the mayor said. The teen then sought treatment at a second hospital, where he died. He tested positive for COVID-19 posthumously, as per the outlet.

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“This underscores the enormity of the challenges in front of us with this health crisis and how it can impact anybody and everybody,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in response to the death, according to the Los Angeles Daily News. The outlet, citing Parris, also reported that the teen died from septic shock related to the coronavirus. The Global Sepsis Alliance said earlier this month that COVID-19 can cause sepsis. 

The teen’s death — as well as the two others reported on Tuesday, both in people between the ages of 50 and 70, one of whom had underlying health conditions — brings LA County’s total number of coronavirus-related fatalities to 11, officials said.

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“Each loss we experience in LA County is tragic, and we are sending our heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones who've had to endure this tragedy,” reads a statement from Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. “COVID-19 does not discriminate by age, race or income level, and what we are seeing in places like New York is indicative of what we should prepare to experience here.”

As of Wednesday morning, the novel virus has infected more than 428,405 people across 169 countries and territories, resulting in over 19,120 deaths. In the U.S., all 50 states plus the District of Columbia have reported confirmed cases of COVID-19, tallying over 55,225 illnesses and at least 802 deaths. More than 176 people in the U.S. have recovered.