Department of Education: Kansas middle school student dies from COVID-19

Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 8:06 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - The Kansas State Department of Education on Wednesday, Sep. 22, confirmed that a Kansas middle school student died from COVID-19. This information comes as the number of school clusters in the state jumped by nearly a dozen from one week ago.

Eyewitness News reached out to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) about the student who died after contracting COVID-19. At this time, the state health department is providing limited information. The KDHE reports the child’s death is the first due to COVID-19 in the 10-to-17-year-old age group in Kansas. It would be the third confirmed death in the state from COVID of someone younger than 18.

Kansas State Department of Education Commissioner Dr. Randy Watson confirmed the COVID-related death of the middle school student during a Kansas Safer Classrooms workgroup meeting. While information is limited, the KDHE did release a statement Wednesday.

“KDHE and local public health officials are investigating the report of a recent death in a minor resulting from COVID-19 disease,” the department said. “KDHE has reached out to the facilities that cared for the minor with a request for medical records. No other information will be released as this time to protect the identity of the decedent and the family.”

State health officials say protecting against COVID continues to be a challenge in education settings with 72 active outbreaks at schools reported to the state, leading to nearly 540 cases. Dr. Watson said one thing leading to some progress is the testing strategy implemented by a majority of Kansas’ school districts.

“Where we were probably six months ago, seven months ago, where almost no one wanted to test, to where we are today and the amount of instructional time we are saving and the number of schools that we are able to keep in session,” Dr. Watson said.

Wichita Public Schools Health Services Director KImber Kasitz said requiring masks has made a significant impact in the state’s largest district, including on workload.

“More than just stop the spread of cases so rapidly, it also minimized the contact tracing effort,” she said.

Wichita pediatrician Dr. Stephanie Kuhlmann said she’s seen a drastic increase in the number of children admitted to the pediatric ICU with COViD-19, more children in August and September than in the previous year and a half of the pandemic. Dr. Kuhlmann said they’ve also been seeing infants who contracted COVID-19 from older siblings.

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