Minnesota child dies from COVID-19 complications, MDH says

The Minnesota Department of Health has confirmed that a child from southwestern Minnesota has died due to complications from COVID-19.

MDH said the child was under the age of 10 years old but provided no other details, including when the child died.

It’s the third death of a Minnesotan under the age of 18 due to COVID-19, according to MDH.

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The department issued the following statement Monday:

"We are deeply saddened to confirm that a child under age 10 from southwestern Minnesota has died due to complications from COVID-19. While COVID-related deaths in children are rare, they can occur even in otherwise healthy children. Since the start of the pandemic, three Minnesota children under age 18 have died due to COVID-19. Because this is a death in a school-aged student in Minnesota, it will be included in Thursday’s school data update.

"Since children under 16 are not yet eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, the best approach we all can take to keep children safe is to make sure those around them who can get vaccinated do get vaccinated, and that we continue to follow those measures that prevent transmission of the virus. Those measures include getting vaccinated as soon as you can, wearing masks when in public, socially distancing, getting tested regularly, staying home if you test positive or if you’re sick, washing your hands and covering your coughs."

Gov. Tim Walz issued the following statement:

"It is simply heartbreaking to hear that COVID-19 has taken the life of someone so young. My thoughts are with the Minnesota family grieving the loss of their beloved child. There is no grief more profound than the loss of family."

"As the vaccines help us turn the page on COVID-19, we can’t forget that this is a deadly disease. It has taken over 7,000 Minnesotans’ lives and it continues to persist in our communities. It’s on all of us to do our part to end this pandemic – wear a mask, social distance, get tested, and get the vaccine. It will save lives."

Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Dr. Heather Mueller issued the statement below:

"As a mom and a former teacher, I am devastated to hear about the loss of one of our students to COVID-19. My heart is with the family, fellow students, and school staff who will forever be missing a child, a classmate, and an important member of their school community."

"This sadly reinforces that the pandemic is not over and the precautions that we are taking are not just for our own safety, but for all Minnesotans – including our youngest students who are not yet eligible for the vaccine. We must finish out the school year strong. On behalf of our students and staff, please continue to get tested regularly, wash your hands, stay home when sick, wear a mask, and get vaccinated as soon as you can. These little acts all matter."

Marshall Public Schools, where the child was a first-grade student, sent out the following statement to families in the district:

It is with great sorrow we have learned that on April 25, 2021, a first-grade student at Park Side Elementary passed away as a result of complications from COVID.

I recognize this is scary and concerning for many. We encourage you to continue to watch your students for any signs of COVID. If your student begins to show symptoms, please bring them in to be tested right away.

We understand there may be questions and concerns about this as it relates to COVID. We have all been, and continue to be, doing our part to keep everyone safe by following protocols set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and the Minnesota Department of Health. Protocols in place include not only masks, frequent handwashing, and social distancing, but also monitoring for symptoms, testing, and following quarantine guidelines for symptoms, close contacts, and positive tests. We continue to be in contact with our COVID response team and local medical professionals. Be assured, we continue to keep everyone’s safety and wellbeing at the forefront.

The district has made plans to respond to the sadness and uncertainty we are experiencing in our buildings. Crisis team members are on hand to support all those in need. We appreciate your thoughts and prayers for the family, the staff, the students, and Park Side Elementary during this difficult time.

“It is extremely rare,” said KSTP Medical Expert Dr. Archelle Georgiou. “In the majority of cases children, especially young children, have a very mild course of having COVID.”

Georgiou said it will be important to determine whether the child died of typical COVID-19 complications, or whether they had a rare complication called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C).

“I think that’s a big distinguishing feature to just understand what happened,” she said. "[MIS-C] is a situation where their immune system creates so much inflammation, it shuts down multiple organs in their body and can be a very, very serious condition.”

MDH told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS it doesn’t have enough information yet to know whether the first-grader had MIS-C.

According to Walz, the child didn’t have any underlying health conditions.

“I think it’s been one of the unfortunate myths with COVID is that children don’t get it and when they do it’s a mild cold and that’s absolutely not true,” said Patsy Stinchfield, a pediatric nurse practitioner at Children’s Minnesota. “Children do get COVID and people at any age can die of COVID. It is much more common in 60s, 70s, 80-year-olds and very, very uncommon in young children. But again, unfortunately, we do know children die of COVID.”

Since the pandemic arrived in Minnesota last year, Children’s Minnesota has treated 2,760 COVID-positive patients. Of those, 384 were hospitalized and 61 had MIS-C.

The most common age group are 11 to 17-year-olds, which account for 11% of cases, or more than 800 cases.

More than 700 were among those 1 to 5 years old. Six to 10-year-olds accounted for more than 500 cases or 6%. There were more than 300 children treated, or 3%, who were less than a year old. Patients 18 and older accounted for more than 200 cases or 2%.

“We’ve seen a slight increase in our outpatient positive cases,” Stinchfield said. “Our number of cases of kids hospitalized has really averaged around six. Right now, we have seven in-house, with two of them in our intensive care unit. That’s been pretty similar throughout this whole pandemic.”

Statewide there was an increase in cases among children in March and early April, according to MDH.

“Kids can get exposed in the many different ways they interact with people,” Stinchfield said. “Adults do transmit it to children, more than the other way around. Children can transmit it to each other, and so while we might be doing good things in the classroom or sporting events, we really need to think as parents in the before and after the event.”

She urges parents to avoid carpooling without masks. She said a team pizza party where some people are vaccinated but others are not is another unsafe situation.

Stinchfield is also a member of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and urges anyone over 16 years old to get the vaccine.

“We are at sort of a critical time right now because we’re not where we need to be with 80% or higher of the eligible population [vaccinated]” she said. “We as adults really need to get ourselves vaccinated to protect the kids.”

Georgiou agrees.

“We know that everyone is at risk for contracting COVID, and fortunately children have a mild course but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible for them get severely ill,” Georgiou said. “One thing that parents can do for their children, especially for their children who are younger than the age of 16, is to get immunized because those children don’t have a choice about whether they get immunized.”