At least three Ohio children with COVID-19 died since June, but it’s not that simple

By: - August 28, 2020 1:00 am

Photo of drive-through COVID-19 screening by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

People who knew Dorielis Reyes-Paula, a 9-year-old from Middletown, Ohio, described her as a curious student, bouncing down the hallways of Wildwood Elementary and picking dandelion flowers for her teachers.

She contracted COVID-19 in May, according to a GoFundMe page her mother established. She was hospitalized, lost movement in parts of her body, and lost ability to walk. She died August 19. 

“Dorielis was so full of life,” school Superintendent Marlon Styles Jr. said in a message announcing her death. “She was a kind, quiet leader and she always had a friendly word for her classmates … She was a helper and every day she lifted you up with a kind comment or sweet gesture.”

Doctors conducted biopsies, looked for multiple sclerosis, tried dialysis of her plasma, and treated her for vasculitis, according to her mother. An epileptic seizure preceded her admission to an intensive care unit at the hospital. Styles called her death a “medical mystery.”

Though Reyes-Paula had COVID-19 and died, the Ohio Department of Health does not count her as a COVID-19 death. 

ODH records show only two children (people aged 0-19) have died from the coronavirus.

One of the cases ODH classifies as a COVID-19 child death was a 19-year-old woman from Ottawa County who had a long list of comorbidities and lived in a long-term care facility most of her life, according to county health commissioner Jerry Bingham.

Details are scant on the other case. State data shows she was a woman from Montgomery County, aged 0-19 years old, who died from COVID-19 on July 31. 

Dan Suffoletto, a spokesman for Public Health Dayton and Montgomery County, declined to provide information on the case, citing privacy concerns. 

Four children, like Reyes-Paula, had the coronavirus and died. However, ODH does not classify their deaths as caused by the coronavirus. 

Together, they paint a complicated picture rife with tragedy and more lingering questions than answers.

In Erie County, a woman who was either 18 or 19 years old, died July 26 in a car crash, according to county health commissioner Pete Schade. Doctors detected the coronavirus in her system when they were testing her organs for donation.

Two males from Cuyahoga County, aged 0-19, are listed as coronavirus cases who died July 1 and July 9. Like the others, they aren’t counted as COVID-19 deaths.

The circumstances surrounding their deaths are unclear. Spokesmen for the Cuyahoga County Board of Health and the Cleveland Health Department said they didn’t have additional information to provide.

Brian Fowler, data manager for ODH, declined to provide information on specific cases.

However, he said the data published on the department’s coronavirus website is considered preliminary until a death certificate is produced. The data would then be updated to reflect the cause of death listed on the death certificate.

Serious complications from COVID-19 in children are extremely rare but have been documented in Ohio.

About 250 children (0-19) have been hospitalized with the disease since March.

The disease can cause Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), a condition that can cause serious or lethal inflammation in the heart, lungs, brain, skin, eyes or gastrointestinal organs.

In early July, at least eight cases of MIS-C had been identified in Ohio children. An ODH spokeswoman said ODH is now aware of 12 cases.

More than 11,300 Ohioans aged 0-19 have contracted COVID-19, per ODH data.

This story was updated with MIS-C data from the Ohio Department of Health. 

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Jake Zuckerman
Jake Zuckerman

Jake Zuckerman is a statehouse reporter. He spent three years chronicling the West Virginia Legislature for The Charleston Gazette-Mail after covering cops and courts for The Northern Virginia Daily.