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Mississippi Baby Dies of COVID; Child Deaths In Past 45 Days Exceed Prior 17 Months

photo shows hands holding a baby's feet
Mississippi reported its first COVID-19 death involving an infant, meaning a child younger than 1 year old, on Sept. 8, 2021. Photo by Bonnie Kittle on Unsplash

For the first time in Mississippi since the pandemic began, a baby has died of COVID-19, the Mississippi State Department of Health reported today. State health leaders confirmed only that the latest child victim is an infant less than a year old.

With this latest death, Mississippi’s COVID-19 pediatric death toll for the past six weeks is now four, exceeding the first 17 months of the pandemic when three Mississippians younger than 18 died of COVID-19. The delta variant surge brought with it the worst wave of child infections and hospitalizations yet.

“Another pediatric death reported by @msdh in Mississippi. … ,” Mississippi Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics President Dr. Anita Henderson tweeted today. “We must do all we can including masks, vaccinations, ventilation, testing to protect kids in school.”

On July 25, 2021, 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 hours after rapidly developing symptoms and testing positive. 

On Aug. 25, MSDH reported that a sixth child had died of COVID-19, this one between the ages of 1 and 5, had died of COVID-19, but that child’s identity is not publicly known.

“The overwhelming majority of cases and hospitalizations that we’re seeing are sadly in unvaccinated individuals, and remember we have children less than the age of 12 that are not eligible for vaccination,” Mississippi State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said during an MSDH press conference today.

“So it’s going to be important for us going forward that we keep those children as safe as possible. Certainly vaccination of those adults and eligible members of the household is one of the best ways to keep children safe.”

Mississippi currently ranks No. 48 in vaccinations, ahead of only Alabama and Wyoming, with 40% of all residents vaccinated. Among those ages 12 to 15, 23% are vaccinated, while 27% of those ages 16 to 17 are vaccinated.

Headshot of Paul Byers
“Certainly vaccinated of those adults and eligible members of the household is one of the best ways to keep children safe,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said during a MSDH press conference on Sept. 8, 2021. AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

Children younger than 12 are not yet eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccinations rose for seven weeks in July and August amid the delta variant surge, but weekly vaccinations declined during each of the past two weeks.

Along with the first infant death, Mississippi’s overall pediatric death toll since the pandemic began in 2020 includes three children between the ages of 11 and 17, one child between 6 and 10 and two between 1 and 5.

The University of Mississippi Medical Center, which includes the state’s only pediatric hospital, currently has 85 adult COVID-19 patients and 18 child patients. Mississippi health leaders said last week that multiple pregnant women died with COVID-19 at a single hospital in August, with health-care workers delivering babies by c-section shortly before their mothers’ deaths.

Since Monday, the Mississippi State Department of Health has reported 247 deaths among Mississippians of all ages, including 102 today.

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