As of Tuesday, there have been 662 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 11 deaths from coronavirus-related illness in Los Angeles County

By Gabrielle Chung
March 25, 2020 11:16 AM
Carolyn Cole/Getty Images

A 17-year-old boy who tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has died, according to health officials in Los Angeles County.

His death was confirmed along with three others that were linked to the highly contagious respiratory illness in a release issued by Los Angeles County Public Health on Tuesday, however they later said the boy’s cause of death is under further investigation by the Centers for Disease Control. If his death is linked to COVID-19, he is likely the youngest victim of the outbreak.

“Though early tests indicated a positive result for COVID-19, the case is complex and there may be an alternate explanation for this fatality,” the health department said in an updated statement.

The boy, from Lancaster, California, was healthy until he started experiencing respiratory problems, Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris said, according to The New York Times. He went to the hospital, but was released without being tested for COVID-19. He then went to another hospital where he was tested and treated. His COVID-19 test came up positive after his death.

“How do you take a kid in for having respiratory problems and you don’t test him?” Parris said. “I am so livid.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, the boy’s father also has COVID-19.

LA health officials emphasized in their statement that young people should not think they are immune to the virus.

“Each loss we experience in LA County is tragic, and we are sending our heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones who’ve had to endure this tragedy,” Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “COVID-19 does not discriminate by age, race or income level, and what we are seeing in places like New York is indicative of what we should prepare to experience here.”

“While Public Health is doing everything possible to mitigate the impact of this disease in our community, we can only flatten the curve if EVERYONE takes social distancing seriously and adheres to all isolation and quarantine orders issued by our Health Officer.”

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According to the Los Angeles County Public Health, there have been 662 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 11 deaths in the county as of Tuesday. Out of the confirmed cases, 10 have been minors age 17 and under, while 268 are patients ranging from 18 to 40.

The department says 119 people have been hospitalized due to coronavirus.

On Thursday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order for the state’s 40 million residents to stay at home “until further notice” to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Californians were told they should only leave their homes for essential needs, such as buying groceries, purchasing medications and attending doctor or veterinary appointments. Residents were also asked to work from home unless they provide essential services, including grocery store workers, firefighters, police officers, gas station attendants or pharmacists.

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Shortly before Newsom’s announcement, Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti announced his “Safer at Home” initiative, which asked the city’s residents to stay indoors except for essential travel. Guidelines on the city’s website say the order is “legally enforceable” and those who violate it “may be punished by a fine or imprisonment for doing so.”

However, public beaches across California were still filled with sunbathers and swimmers days after the orders went into effect, prompting Garcetti to tweet on Sunday, “This weekend we saw too many people packing beaches, trails and parks. So we are closing sports and recreation at @LACityParks and closing parking at city beaches. That doesn’t mean gather elsewhere. This is serious. Stay home and save lives.”

As of March 24, California has at least 2,240 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 41 deaths, according to a New York Times database.

Across the United States, there have been at least 43,499 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 537 deaths from coronavirus-related illness.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.

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