Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) said at a Saturday press conference that an infant’s death has been associated with the COVID_19 pandemic in Chicago,
The child is believed to be the first infant death from the coronavirus worldwide, but experts are currently investigating the case to determine why the child died.
“Upon hearing the news, I admit I was immediately shaken, and it’s appropriate for any of us to grieve today,” Pritzker told reporters.
He added: “We should grieve for the loss of the sense of normalcy that we left behind just a few weeks ago. It’s okay today to grieve.”
While the overall risk to children is lower than adults, children under the age of 1 are thought to be particularly vulnerable to the most serious effects of the virus. That’s in part because their immune systems are still being trained to identify and respond to threats.
Illinois Department of Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike said on Saturday, “has never before been a death associated with COVID-19 in an infant,”
Researchers are still scrambling to learn why the virus appears to spare many older children from developing the most severe symptoms.
Illinois has almost 3,500 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, according to its health department. Illinois officials are bracing for cases to increase dramatically. Chicago has enlisted the Army Corps of Engineers to convert McCormick Place, a convention center, into a 3,000-bed hospital.
The infant’s death follows an announcement earlier this week of the death of a 17-year-old in California as the youngest death case of COVID-19 in the United States, although officials later backtracked owing to the results of a CDC investigation.
“On further investigation … there were extenuating circumstances that pointed to an alternative diagnosis,” even though he was positive for COVID-19, a Los Angeles County health official said Wednesday.
The teen’s case drew criticism, however, after it emerged that he had been initially turned away from an urgent care facility for not having health insurance. Although he tried to get to a public hospital, he went into cardiac arrest en route and died a few hours later.