‘Extremely sad’: Kansas middle school student dies of COVID-19, education official says

·2 min read

A Kansas middle school student has died of COVID-19 as the state continues to experience statewide clusters of infection in the classroom, a state education official said Wednesday.

Education Commissioner Randy Watson shared the news during a video conference with Gov. Laura Kelly’s Safer Classrooms Workgroup. He said he learned of the death shortly before joining the meeting.

“On an extremely sad note I was just informed literally before I walked in this other room to join you, that we did have a middle school student pass away of COVID just in the last, maybe, day,” Watson said.

“Those are the types of things we’re working hard to make sure it does not happen while we keep schools open,” he added. “It’s keeping them open and safe.”

Details about where the death occurred and the circumstances, such as whether the child was infected at school, remained unclear Wednesday afternoon.

A spokeswoman for the Kansas education department deferred questions to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

“KDHE and local public health officials are investigating the report of a recent death in a minor resulting from COVID-19 disease,” KDHE spokesman Matt Lara said in an email to The Star. “KDHE has reached out to the facilities that cared for the minor with a request for medical records. No other information will be released at this time to protect the identity of the decedent and the family.”

Two children have died in Kansas of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, according to current state health data. It was unclear whether the latest death was reflected in those statistics.

There are 72 active COVID-19 clusters in schools tied to 537 cases and one hospitalization across the state, health department data shows. Among the latest traced exposure locations is Piper Prairie Elementary in Kansas City, Kansas, where five cases have been reported within the past two weeks.

Schools across the state and Kansas City region are reporting dozens of COVID-19 cases among students and staff.

Public health experts have urged districts to adopt a multi-tiered approach to mitigating the virus, including vaccination, masking, social distancing, continual cleaning, regular testing and symptom checking. Experts say that the strategies are especially crucial in schools as children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible for the vaccine.

The Star’s Katie Bernard contributed to this report.

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