A 10-year-old girl in Suffolk died Monday from COVID-19 after being tasked to walk sick children in her class to the clinic, her mother wrote on Facebook. She is the 12th youth under the age of 20 in the state to die of the virus.
Teresa Makenzie Sperry, a student at Hillpoint Elementary School, was admitted to Children's Hospital of Kings Daughters in Norfolk and died after her heart failed, her mother, Nicole Sperry, wrote.
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, avoid coughing or sneezing into their hands or the air and to avoid touching their eyes, mouth and nose.
All K-12 students in Virginia are required to wear masks in school.
Nicole Sperry called it a "sorry excuse of a letter," saying Gordon never contacted her individually.
"My beautiful girl was taken from me because people are too damn selfish to care about what could happen to others," Nicole Sperry wrote on Facebook. "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!"
Nicole Sperry called described her daughter as "perfectly healthy." She 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%, and pediatric patient ages 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. In mid-September, there were 252 kids and adolescents hospitalized with COVID in the state, the highest number at that point in the pandemic.
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, Dr. Anthony Fauci said.
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 a child died Monday to The Virginian-Pilot, saying the child succumbed to COVID and not Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome, an after-effect of the virus that has affected more than 80 children in the state.
Nicole Sperry 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."