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Severe COVID symptoms rarer in kids, but they do happen

A nine-month-old's death in Clay County shows how kids can become severely ill with COVID-19, even though it's rarer than with adults.

MINNEAPOLIS — In Minnesota, nobody younger than 20 years old had died of COVID-19 – until this week, when the Minnesota Department of Health reported the death of a nine-month-old in Clay County on Monday.

According to the department, the case is considered one of the youngest COVID-19-related fatalities in the United States. In the aftermath of the death, health officials in Minnesota sent specimens to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where the nation’s top experts can presumably use the information to learn more about the impact of COVID-19 on kids.

People under the age of 20 make up fewer than 1,000 of the positive COVID-19 cases in Minnesota and have now accounted for only one death, falling in line with national data that seems to suggest kids don’t experience severe symptoms as frequently as adults.

As Children’s Minnesota Nurse Practitioner Patsy Stinchfield points out, however, “it’s not zero that this can happen.”

“We know kids of all ages can get COVID,” she said.

At Children’s Minnesota, Stinchfield reported 343 positive cases out of 7,000 tested, with 54 admissions to the hospital and 13 to the ICU.

“What they’re presenting with, is A to Z: Some children come in and just have a fever and sore throat, some may have a runny nose and cough, others, older kids come in saying, ‘I can’t smell or taste,'” Stinchfield said. “Sometimes, they present where those underlying conditions are worsening: Increased blood sugars for diabetics, more seizures for kids with epilepsy. So, paying attention to that is really important.”

In the case of the Clay County nine-month-old, it does not appear the infant had any underlying conditions, but health commissioner Jan Malcolm said it appears to be an “isolated incident related to the infant’s very specific situation.” Additional details have not been released to protect the family's privacy. 

“Our sympathies very much go out to the family and any COVID-related death,” Malcolm said. “Any death involving such a young person is tragic and certainly very unusual.”

KARE 11’s coverage of the coronavirus is rooted in Facts, not Fear. Visit kare11.com/coronavirus for comprehensive coverage, find out what you need to know about the Midwest specifically, learn more about the symptoms, and see what businesses are open as the state slowly lifts restrictions. Have a question? Text it to us at 763-797-7215. And get the latest coronavirus updates sent right to your inbox every morning. Subscribe to the KARE 11 Sunrise newsletter here. Help local families in need: www.kare11.com/give11

The state of Minnesota has set up a data portal online at mn.gov/covid19.

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