Orange County reported its first COVID-19 death of a child under the age of 5 on Friday, marking the second pediatric death related to the virus in the county.
The child, who had unspecified underlying health conditions, died in August of complications related to a coronavirus infection, O.C. Health Care Agency officials said in a news release.
“My heart goes out to this family who has lost a precious young life. This is an urgent reminder that we must do everything we can to protect our little ones, the children and infants in our community who are not yet eligible for a vaccination,” County Health Officer Dr. Clayton Chau said in a statement.
Officials did not release specifics on the child’s age and city of residence.
It’s the second confirmed coronavirus-related pediatric death reported in Orange County, after a teenage girl with significant underlying medical conditions died of COVID-19 in August last year, an O.C. Health Care Agency spokesperson told KTLA.
The younger child’s death comes just two weeks after Riverside County reported that a 4-year-old became its youngest coronavirus-related death confirmed since the start of the pandemic.
As of Wednesday, California had reported nine deaths associated with COVID-19 among children under 5 years old, and 24 deaths among children between the ages of 5 and 17, according to data from the California Department of Public Health.
A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that weekly coronavirus-related hospitalization rates among children and teenagers rose nearly fivefold during late June to mid-August this year.
The study says the spike in pediatric hospitalizations coincides with increased circulation of the highly transmissible delta coronavirus variant.
So far in Orange County, 2,454 cases of the delta variant have been identified — including 175 among children younger than 12, according to county data.
“COVID-19 will be present in Orange County for the foreseeable future, and there is always the possibility of new versions of the virus emerging, like the Delta and Mu variants,” Deputy County Health Officer Dr. Matthew Zahn said in a statement. “Those facts do not change the things we can do to prevent this disease.”
Zahn said vaccination remains the most effective way to prevent serious illness or dying from COVID-19.
“In Orange County, someone who is not fully vaccinated is almost six times more likely to get COVID-19 than a person who is fully vaccinated,” Zahn said. “Even with slightly declining cases in Orange County, you should get vaccinated.”
Health experts believe unvaccinated adults are contributing to the surge among both grownups and children, the Associated Press reported.