California health officials are reevaluating the death of a 17-year-old boy from coronavirus, saying his case is “complex” and needs further investigation.
The Lancaster teen was initially described as the first known juvenile to die from the coronavirus in the United States.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health attributed his death to coronavirus Tuesday. Later that evening, officials backpedaled, saying his case needs more review by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The teen’s case has grown more complicated between local and county officials. In an interview with CNN on Wednesday, Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris said the teen died a week ago on March 18.
“On Friday he was fine, on Wednesday he was dead,” the mayor said. “That’s five days.”
The mayor criticized the period it took county officials to determine his death.
“I can’t believe it took a week to find out a child in my city died,” Parris said.
Teen was turned away at urgent care, mayor says
The mayor said he spoke to the teen’s distraught father, who gave him more details on what happened.
When the teen became ill, his parents took him to an urgent care center and were turned away because he didn’t have health insurance, Parris said. He was then taken to an emergency room at a local hospital.
“When a kid comes in respiratory distress, stabilize him and call ambulance, don’t ask for insurance,” Parris fumed. He said he’s not aware of any health issues the teen may have had.
The teen was tested for coronavirus at a hospital and when the results came out, his parents were also told they were infected with the virus, but had not been tested, the mayor said. It’s unclear how long it took to get the results.
In a statement Tuesday night, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said it’s looking into the case further. “Though early tests indicated a positive result for Covid-19, the case is complex and there may be an alternate explanation for this fatality. Patient privacy prevents our offering further details at this time,” it said in a statement.
The county health agency did not respond to additional CNN questions about the case.
A friend of the teen who attends Lancaster High School also tested positive for coronavirus, the mayor said. So did the friend’s father.
The teen’s father is also concerned for the people who were hugging and shaking hands at the funeral, Parris said. It’s unclear whether they knew the teen had died of coronavirus at the time.
Lancaster is in northern Los Angeles County, and has a population of about 160,000.
California cases are skyrocketing
The nation’s most populous state ordered its nearly 40 million residents to stay home to prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus. The order went into effect last week, meaning Californians should not leave home except for essential things such as food, prescriptions, health care and commuting to jobs considered crucial. The restrictions will remain in place until further notice.
The number of coronavirus cases in the state is doubling every three to four days, said Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of California Health and Human Services.
“We originally thought that it would be doubling every six to seven days and we see cases doubling every three to four days,” Ghaly said.
There are more than 65,000 cases of coronavirus in the US, according to CNN tally of cases detected and tested through public health systems. More than 900 people have died.
California has recorded more than 2,500 cases and 53 deaths.