RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — In less than 24 hours, two pediatric COVID-19 deaths in Central Virginia were confirmed to 8News.
One child between the ages of 10 and 19 died on July 27 in the Chesterfield Health District, which includes Chesterfield County, Powhatan County and the City of Colonial Heights.
Another child between the ages of 0 and 9 died earlier this month in the Richmond and Henrico Health Districts (RHHD). RHHD Deputy Director Dr. Melissa Viray told 8News that the child lived in the City of Richmond, making this the city’s first pediatric COVID-19 death.
“It’s so heartbreaking and it’s really tragic,” Viray said. “But it’s definitely a message to our communities that it’s so critical that — for our children — that we get vaccinated and that we do whatever we can to mitigate transmission in the community.”
As of Thursday, Highland County is the only county in Virginia with neither a substantial nor moderate rate of community transmission of COVID-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has reported a total of 32,593 COVID-19 hospitalizations, 745 of them in children 19 and younger.
“It’s heartbreaking for us to see our community members suffer and for our community members to be affected and to die from COVID-19,” Viray said. “It’s especially heartbreaking for it to happen in those who are so young because, to us, those are our potential for the future.”
Virginia’s first pediatric COVID-19 death was reported in March of 2021. Since then, 10 children in the commonwealth have lost their lives as a result of the virus.
“Unlike what happened this time last year, we’re not in lockdown. We’re out and about in the community. Our kids are out and about. Hopefully, we’re all being careful and hand-washing and things,” Viray said. “Unlike adults and those 12 and older, our younger kids can’t get vaccinated.”
Viray said the best line of defense against pediatric COVID-19 deaths right now is making sure that everyone who can get vaccinated does so. She also encouraged children and the adults around them to continue mask-wearing.
“If we can do everything we can to get our community vaccinated, this is part of the reason why,” Viray said. “It’s part of the reason that we are pushing so hard to get vaccination out there, for people to wear masks indoors whenever possible, for people to be mitigating, not to be going into crowded spaces with poor ventilation, because the ultimate outcome can be as bad as this.”