‘Extremely sad’: Kansas middle school student dies of COVID-19, education official says

A Kansas middle school student has died of COVID-19 as the state continues to experience nationwide clusters of infections in the classroom, a state education official said Wednesday.
Education Commissioner Randy Watson shared the news during a video conference with Governor Laura Kelly's Safer Classrooms Working Group. He said he learned of the death shortly before attending the meeting.
"As an extremely sad piece of advice, I was literally informed just before I went to that other room to come to you that we were just passing a middle school student's last, maybe, day of death of COVID," said Watson.
"These are the things we work hard on to make sure this doesn't happen while we keep schools open," he added. "It keeps you open and secure."
Details about the place of death and the circumstances, such as whether the child was infected at school, remained unclear on Wednesday afternoon.
A Kansas Department of Education spokeswoman referred questions to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
"KDHE and local health authorities are investigating the report of a recent death of a minor from COVID-19 disease," KDHE spokesman Matt Lara said in an email to The Star. “KDHE contacted the facilities that looked after the minor with a request for medical documents. No further information is currently being released to protect the identity of the deceased and the family. "
In Kansas, two children have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, according to current health data. It was unclear whether the most recent death was reflected in these statistics.
There are 72 active COVID-19 clusters in schools, linked to 537 cases and hospitalization across the state, data from the Department of Health shows. Recent exposure sites tracked include Piper Prairie Elementary in Kansas City, Kansas, where five cases have been reported in the past two weeks.
Schools across the state and the Kansas City area are reporting dozen of COVID-19 cases among students and staff.
Public health experts have urged districts to take a multi-tiered approach to contain the virus, including vaccination, masking, social distancing, continuous cleaning, regular testing, and symptom control. Experts say the strategies are especially important in schools as children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible for the vaccine.
Katie Bernard of the Star contributed to this report.

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