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An infant in Illinois who tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has died, the state’s governor said in a press conference on Saturday.
This marks the first recorded death in the US of an infant who contracted the virus. A full investigation is underway to determine the baby’s cause of death, said Illinois Department of Public Health director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.
“Today is a really hard day. I’m reporting 465 new cases and 13 additional deaths, including the tragic death of an infant,” Ezike said.
In another press conference on Sunday, Dr. Ezike said the investigation into the 9-month-old's death is still ongoing.
“The investigation is still very fresh. We’re still trying to gather the data as we’re speaking,” she said. “We know that this is very top-of-mind for people and we want to allow the appropriate processes to take place so we can give the best information.”
Illinois Gov. J. B. Pritzker also said that the death is a rare occurrence, according to scientific papers.
“I would remind parents out there that this is highly uncommon," he said. "That isn’t to say that every infant is safe ... but this is not something we should hear a lot more of because it doesn’t happen often at all.”
Among the dead reported on Saturday was a state employee from the Department of Human Resources. This brings the total number of deaths in the country to 2,191, including 47 in Illinois.
“The age of cases ranges from younger than one to 99 years,” a news release from IDPH said.
“I know how difficult this news can be, especially about this very young child,” Pritzker said on Saturday. “Upon hearing it, I admit I was immediately shaken, and it’s appropriate for any of us to grieve today.”
Illinois implemented a stay-at-home order on March 21. Pritzker said the state has been working to procure essential medical equipment for front-line workers and amp up its testing capabilities.
“We want everyone in Illinois to take COVID-19 seriously,” Ezike said. “If you haven’t been paying attention, maybe this is your wake-up call.”
Although the virus is more likely to cause deaths in adults, children who tested positive for COVID-19 have also died. Infant death has been an especially rare occurrence, but according to the New England Journal of Medicine at least one 10-month-old infant in Wuhan died in a hospital after being diagnosed.
“We should grieve,” Pritzker said. “We should grieve with our family of the state employees. With the many people already lost to this virus, young and old. We should grieve for the loss of a sense of normalcy we left behind just a few weeks ago. It’s OK today to grieve.”