As many Mississippi children have died of COVID-19 over the past month as died during the first 16 months of the pandemic combined. The Mississippi State Department of Health reports that the latest pediatric victim is younger than 5 years old. State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers confirmed the sixth death during a press conference today.
The latest death is the third confirmed COVID-19 death in a Mississippian younger than 18 since July 25, when 16-year-old Jenna Lyn Jeansonne of Picayune died due to complications from the virus. Then, on Aug. 14, Mkayla Robinson, 13, died just over a week after starting 8th grade at Raleigh Junior High School within hours of rapidly developing symptoms and testing positive. She had been in school as recently as three days before her death with no apparent symptoms and no diagnosis yet, sources told the Mississippi Free Press earlier this month.
The three earlier deaths include two children between the ages of 5 and 17 and one younger than 5 years old. Two of those deaths occurred in 2020 and one in spring 2021 before the arrival of the more contagious delta variant, which has caused dozens of children to be hospitalized, with some on life support, since last month.
The state’s only pediatric hospital, Children’s of Mississippi in Jackson, is currently caring for 23 children who are sick with COVID-19. Children under 12 years of age are not currently eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Among Mississippi children ages 12-15, about 18% are currently vaccinated, while 23% of those between the ages of 16 and 17 are vaccinated, MSDH reports.
Since schools began the fall semester across the state, about 15,000 students have tested positive for COVID-19 and around 50,000 have been quarantined due to exposure to confirmed cases.
During an episode of MFP Live last week, American Academy of Pediatrics Mississippi Chapter President Anita Henderson advocated for a “layered approach” to protecting children from COVID-19. She said Gov. Tate Reeves’ executive order requiring masks in school last year “worked well.” The governor has repeatedly refused to issue one this year.
Mississippi Free Press State Reporter Nick Judin contributed to this report.