A baby died Jan. 17 from COVID-19 in Umatilla County, according to information released Thursday by public health.

Officials announced Umatilla County’s 80th virus-related death was a newborn boy, born to a mom who had tested positive at the time of the birth.

The birth was an emergency delivery, officials said.

The child tested positive and died the same day at Kadlec Medical Center in Tri-Cities.

Oregon Health Officer Dr. Dean Sidelinger said that while every death from COVID-19 is a tragedy, it is even more so in a child.

“The death of an infant is extremely rare. This news represents a tremendous loss to the mother and family,” Sidelinger said.

“My thoughts are with them during this difficult time.”

Gov. Kate Brown echoed those words, noting that Oregonians have worked together for nearly a year to protect lives from the virus.

“The loss of a life so young is an indescribable tragedy for a family. Dan and I send our thoughts and condolences to the mother and family of this child, whose grief must be unimaginable in this moment. The hearts of all Oregonians are with you today.”

Sidelinger said children infected with COVID-19 are less likely to develop severe illnesses compared to adults, but risks still remain to children of developing more severe illnesses from COVID-19. Parents should seek emergency medical care for their children if certain symptoms such as these are present:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Pain or pressure in the chest that doesn’t go away
  • New confusion
  • Being unable to wake up or stay awake when not tired
  • Bluish lips or face

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the hospitalization of children for COVID-19 related illnesses remains low compared to adults, and only 1.3% of all positive and presumed cases of COVID-19 in Oregon have been reported among age 9 or younger.

The CDC said children with certain underlying medical conditions and infants younger than 1 year old might be at increased risk for severe illness from SARS-CoV-2 infections, and among those who experienced severe illness from COVID-19, most have had underlying medical conditions.

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Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 509-526-8322.

Sheila Hagar has written for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin since 1998. Sheila covers health, social services and city government in Milton-Freewater, Athena and Weston in the Walla Walla Valley.