A 10-year-old girl in Suffolk died Monday from COVID-19 after being tasked with walking sick children in her class to the clinic, her mother wrote on Facebook. She is the 12th person in Virginia younger than 20 to die from the virus.
Teresa Makenzie Sperry, a student at Hillpoint Elementary School, was admitted to Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters in Norfolk and died after her heart failed, wrote her mother, Nicole Sperry.
Nicole Sperry attributed her daughter’s infection to parents allowing their sick children to attend school. Teresa Sperry’s teacher assigned Teresa the job of nurse, walking all the sick students in class to the nurse’s office, Nicole Sperry wrote.
Suffolk Public Schools Superintendent John B. Gordon III announced Teresa’s death in a letter Tuesday but did not name her. He wrote that the school district is monitoring best practices, and he urged students to wash hands regularly, to avoid coughing or sneezing into their hands or the air, and to try not to touch their eyes, mouth and nose.
All K-12 students in Virginia are required to wear a mask in school.
In a Facebook post, Nicole Sperry called it a “sorry excuse of a letter,” saying Gordon never contacted her individually.
Suffolk Public Schools did not respond to a request for an interview.
“My beautiful girl was taken from me because people are too damn selfish to care about what could happen to others,” Nicole Sperry wrote. “We wore our mask because there are too many in our tribe who are at risk. My daughter was not at risk. And now she is gone.”
“Want to know what you can do to honor my lovely girl? Wear a damn mask! Get vaccinated!” she wrote.
Nicole Sperry described her daughter as “perfectly healthy” and urged parents to keep their sick kids home from school.
Infections and hospitalizations of children have spiked in the past two months. At the pandemic’s onset, experts believed children were spared the worst illnesses caused by COVID.
“Now we’re seeing children who are coming in with pneumonia and the need for oxygen,” Dr. Suzanne Lavoie, a Virginia Commonwealth University infectious disease specialist and professor of pediatrics, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch earlier this month. “It’s very serious.”
Early in the pandemic, children accounted for 5% of positive cases at VCU Health. By mid-September, that figure had jumped to 15%. Ages of pediatric patients have ranged from 15 months to 17 years.
Though the pandemic has stretched more than 18 months, a quarter of all pediatric cases in the state have occurred in the past two months, and 11 of 12 deaths have occurred this year. The number of kids hospitalized with COVID has declined from an all-time high of 252 at the beginning of the month to 218 last week. The number of kids admitted to Virginia hospitals for COVID is flat compared with the beginning of the month.
Lavoie said the delta variant, a lack of vaccinations among children and schools reopening likely are all to blame. Vaccines aren’t expected to be available for children ages 5 to 11 until the end of October, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci , the government’s top infectious disease expert.
At the Children’s Hospital of Richmond, the emergency department is seeing an increase in all kinds of illnesses, matching a trend seen in adults throughout the state the past two months, said Dr. Frank Petruzella, medical director of the pediatric emergency department. There’s a 25% to 30% increase in volume compared with the same time before the pandemic.
The children’s hospital also has seen an increase in people coming just to be tested and a rise in the number of kids testing positive. The hospital recommends that families seeking asymptomatic testing go to their primary care doctors, urgent cares or pharmacies, not the emergency room.
Teresa Sperry’s death hasn’t been announced by the Virginia Department of Health, but it is reflected in the VDH’s data of deaths.
The Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters confirmed to The Virginian-Pilot that a child died Monday, saying the child succumbed to COVID and not to a rare inflammatory syndrome in youths linked with the virus that has affected more than 80 children in the state.
Nicole Sperry, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday, wrote on Facebook that she feels the pain of her daughter’s death whenever she sees her name painted on her bedroom door or when her daughter’s cat roams the house.
“COVID is real and it doesn’t care who it takes,” Nicole Sperry wrote. “If you are still under the delusion that it’s not then you can gladly unfriend me and I can guarantee you that I won’t miss you.”