State officials Saturday would not reveal the underlying condition of the 4-year-old child who suffered New Jersey’s first death of complications related to the coronavirus, but they said it does not appear the victim had Kawasaki disease.
“We have no indication at this point in our investigation that the death was related to Kawasaki disease,” state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said during the state’s daily coronavirus briefing in Trenton.
Officials announced the child’s death — the state’s first COVID-19-related fatality of someone under 18 — on Friday and said only that the victim had an underlying condition. They said they would not reveal other information, such as the identity, sex, or residence of the child, out of privacy for the family.
But the death comes while New York has reported three deaths and 73 cases of children with a new pediatric inflammatory syndrome similar to Kawasaki disease and likely linked to COVID-19. New Jersey has 12 children hospitalized with the syndrome, officials said Thursday.
Gov. Phil Murphy on Saturday said the 4-year-old’s death sparked concern among New Jerseyans.
“We got a lot of, ‘Hey, was the underlying health condition Kawasaki?’” Murphy said. “And to the best of our knowledge … the answer is no. It was another comorbidity. And we’re gonna leave it there for privacy sake.”
Murphy was also asked if he has a public health responsibility to reveal more about the death.
“This is a very specific situation with this blessed little kid,” the governor said. “And we’re gonna leave it at that. If it were something other than a very specific situation, we would have the burden of responsibility.”
Added Persichilli: “I can imagine that mothers are concerned.”
“That poor blessed little soul — that individual did have a significant underlying condition,” the health commissioner said. “It obviously complicated the situation.”
New Jersey, a densely populated state of 9 million residents, has reported at least 9,116 deaths attributed to COVID-19, with at least 137,085 cases in the nine weeks since the outbreak began. Officials announced another 166 fatalities and 1,759 positive tests Saturday. Only New York has more deaths and cases among American states.
More than a third of the state’s COVID-19 deaths have come at long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes and veterans homes. More than half of known total deaths have had underlying conditions, according to the state’s coronavirus tracking website.
Children contracting the coronavirus is rare. Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data suggested last month that children represent only 2% of all U.S. and their symptoms tend to be milder than those found in adults.
And as of its April 10 Morbidity and Mortality report — the CDC’s most recent discussion on the topic — it noted only three people under the age of 18 had died from complications from the virus in the U.S.
NJ Advance Media staff writer Bobby Olivier contributed to this report.
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Brent Johnson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.