First death of child with COVID-19 confirmed in Shelby County

By Updated: July 29, 2020 3:39 PM CT | Published: July 27, 2020 2:25 PM CT
<strong>Christ Community Health Center medical staff collect nasal swabs during testing for COVID-19 on July 14. On Monday, July 27, the health department said that the first child in Shelby County has died with COVID-19. The 11-year-old was being treated for another condition at hospitals in Memphis.</strong>&nbsp;(Mark Weber/Daily Memphian)

Christ Community Health Center medical staff collect nasal swabs during testing for COVID-19 on July 14. On Monday, July 27, the health department said that the first child in Shelby County has died with COVID-19. The 11-year-old was being treated for another condition at hospitals in Memphis. (Mark Weber/Daily Memphian)

The first child in Shelby County has died with COVID-19.

The child was 11, according to the Shelby County Health Department website, and was being treated for another condition at hospitals here. 

Alisa Haushalter, Health Department director, spoke of the death Monday when she testified during a federal court hearing on a lawsuit brought by limited-service restaurants forced to close by a pandemic public health directive.

“This week we have experienced our first pediatric death, which we knew would happen, but that’s very disconcerting,” she said in the Zoom hearing in U.S. District Judge Jon McCalla’s courtroom. 

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital later released a joint statement:

“We can confirm that a patient of Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a child under the age of 18-years-old, died from an underlying condition.

“This child was known to be positive for COVID-19, but was not symptomatic. COVID-19 was not thought to have impacted this child’s condition. However, this information must be included in COVID-19 reporting, as directed by the Tennessee Department of Health,” according to the hospitals.

In his early afternoon press conference, Dr. Stephen Threlkeld, infectious disease physician at Baptist Memorial Health Care, also confirmed the child’s death.

“This is a disease that is real. If enough people get it, even though there is a mortality rate that is low, people are going to die.

“Kids, in general, thankfully, are relatively protected from this. They can sometimes have the hardest time avoiding exposure. They are very sociable and thankfully, they don’t often get ill, but some do,” he said, noting that not all childhood coronavirus cases are the rare Kawasaki’s disease.

“Some actually get the lung infection and the kind of disease adults get. It is rare, but it does happen. And so there are a lot of people to protect here.”

As of July 23, Tennessee was one of nine states where pediatric cases of COVID-19 exceed 10,000, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. From July 9-23, it recorded a 44% increase in the number of pediatric cases. 

Nationally, there are an average of 380 cases per 100,000 people. Children account for 0%-0.8% of all COVID-19 deaths in the United States.

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Alisha Dr. Stephen Threlkeld pediatric case

Jane Roberts

Longtime journalist Jane Roberts is a Minnesotan by birth and a Memphian by choice. She's lived and reported in the city more than two decades. She covers healthcare and higher education for The Daily Memphian.


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