Kids Are Dying Too

by Christine Organ
Originally Published: 
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I woke up Sunday morning to news that a teen from our local school district had died from complications likely related to COVID-19. To say I was shaken is a vast understatement. More accurate is that I sobbed for this child I didn’t know but who lived mere miles from our family.

For months, we’ve been told the children are generally “safe” from COVID-19 and coronavirus complications, but just because they are less likely to experience severe symptoms doesn’t mean they are immune to severe complications from this virus.

Zach Leviton – the 16-year-old boy from Wheeling, Illinois – was a seemingly healthy teen. His mom told CBS2 News that his symptoms were mild, but within days he was experiencing limp limbs and shortness of breath. He was rushed to the hospital, and though a COVID-19 test came back negative he was put on a ventilator. He died a week later.

According to CBS2 News, the teen’s mom “said her doctor told her there was no conclusive cause of death, but that Zach had heart complications and that he might have been suffering from the early stages of the virus.”

Although COVID-19 most frequently causes respiratory problems, especially in the elderly or individuals with underlying health conditions, recent medical reports suggest that the heart can also be affected.

Evgeniia Siiankovskaia/Getty

Leviton’s mother is also sounding the alarm on possible accuracy problems with COVID-19 testing. According to some reports, the rate of false negatives could be as high as 30%. Dr. Larry Madoff, medical director of the Bureau of Infectious Disease at the Massachusetts health department told the Boston Globe that, while the CDC tests are very sensitive in detecting the virus, a false negative could result if the test is obtained too early or too late, or if the sample isn’t collected or processed correctly. Because of potential for false negatives, we all need to remain ultra-vigilant in stopping the spread.

“While we may be seeing a plateau in confirmed cases and deaths related to COVID-19 in Illinois, this is a dark week in District 214 that leaves me with an incredibly heavy heart,” David R. Schuler — Superintendent of the school district that Leviton attended — wrote in an email to parents. “During this dark and painful week in D214, I would implore you to please follow the Governor’s stay-at-home order, wash your hands and practice social distancing.”

This isn’t the only devastating story of children succumbing to the disease. On April 19, five-year-old Skylar Herbert from Detroit, Michigan died, after spending two weeks on a ventilator. According to The Detroit News, she tested positive for COVID-19 in March and later developed a rare form of meningitis and brain swelling. The Herberts lauded Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for her staunch stance on the state’s stay-at-home order. Both of Skylar’s parents work in public safety – her dad has been a firefighter for 18 years, her mom a police officer for 25 years.

“I want to say thank you to the governor for making people go home,” LaVondria Herbert said.

Side note to all the selfish jerks who are out there protesting the stay-at-home orders – ignoring social distancing measurements – the Herberts are the people who are literally tasked with protecting you should you find yourself in need of safety. The least you can do – I mean the absolutely least — is stay home and stop prancing around with guns and getting in everyone’s face.

Justin Paget/Getty

Around the world, other children are also dying. At the end of March 2020, a “very healthy” teen from London passed away and so did a 17-year-old from California. Just this week, the five-month-old daughter of a New York firefighter died of coronavirus complications. Five. Months. Old.

5-month-old daughter of NY firefighter dies

So far, these cases do appear to be the exception, rather than the rule. But there is still so much we don’t know about the novel coronavirus and its resulting disease COVID-19. A study published by the CDC in early April 2020 found that children are less likely than adults to develop serious symptoms. New reports from dermatologists are warning of “COVID toes” — the inflammation of blood vessels in the hands and feet — as a new potential sign of the virus, particularly in children.

“We’re having a little bit of a mini epidemic in the pediatric dermatology world with these ‘COVID toes and fingers’ — particularly in those in the second decade of life,” Amy Paller, MD, chair of the Department of Dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine told Yahoo Life. “We’re hearing about all of these cases just popping into practices across the country … Every day I’m talking to another one of my colleagues who’s seeing a patient.”

Research also shows that up to 25% of people infected could be asymptomatic, which means it’s possible for children to unknowingly spread the disease to more vulnerable individuals.

So parents, please please please, keep your kids home and away from anyone who you aren’t living with. No exceptions. For now, that means no group bike rides. No “socially distanced” playdates. No basketball games at the park.

These stories aren’t just “media hype.” These tragedies aren’t happening in some far off place. They are happening in our cities. In our towns. In our neighborhoods. This virus is taking our neighbors and our friends and, yes, in some cases, even our kids.

Information about COVID-19 is rapidly changing, and Scary Mommy is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. With news being updated so frequently, some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For this reason, we are encouraging readers to use online resources from local public health departments, the Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization to remain as informed as possible.

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