KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The University of Kansas Health System said Friday a pediatric patient died from COVID-19 complications this week.
A spokeswoman for the health system confirmed the death but could not provide further details on the patient’s age or circumstances surrounding the death, citing privacy laws.
Pediatric patients at the University of Kansas Hospital range from newborns to teenagers.
While deaths and serious complications from the coronavirus remain rare in children, it’s an issue raising concern as schools continue to plan for how to bring students safely back to the classroom in the fall.
In the Kansas City metro, several of the larger districts — including Blue Valley, Shawnee Mission and Kansas City, Missouri, Public Schools — have said they will wait to start until after Labor Day. But how those plans will look in terms of virtual vs. in-person learning still remain largely up in the air.
Health experts say that while young children, especially those under the age of 10, don’t appear to spread the virus as easily as adults, social distancing and masks will be key to districts implementing a safe in-person learning environment.
During a daily briefing on Friday morning, University of Kansas Health System officials stressed the importance of schools taking these precautions.
“You can try and get around these rules of infection control, but they’re gonna catch up with you,” said Dr. Steven Stites, the health system’s chief medical officer. “ … Wearing a mask, keeping your distance does make a difference. Can you interact safely? Yes, you can. Will it look like the way you’re used to interacting? Not right now.”
In Kansas, Gov. Laura Kelly has issued an executive order that will mandate masks in schools statewide, along with daily temperature checks.
On Thursday, however, Attorney General Derek Schmidt said that he believes local counties and school districts will have the option to exempt themselves from the order, similar to the governor’s earlier statewide mask mandate. When given the option, most counties in the state chose not to adopt the mask mandate, a factor that the state’s top health official has directly attributed to a recent rise in cases.
Across the state line, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson made national headlines for comments he made that children would be able to “get over” the virus if they contracted it while at school. He has since said that while his comments were “not articulated very well,” he wanted to convey the possibility that there will be COVID-19 in schools and that reopening plans will look different for districts across the state depending on the number of cases in the community.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently revised its guidelines for schools, reversing its earlier guidance and putting an emphasis on reopening in the fall. The new guidance is in line with the Trump administration’s priority to reopen schools.
Cases of the virus have continued to increase steadily in both Kansas and Missouri. On Friday afternoon, the two states had reported 24,408 and 39,673 cases, respectively.