May 17, 2020 at 1:46 AM EDT – Updated May 17 at 1:46 AM
CHICAGO (WGN/CNN) – Health officials in Illinois say the death of a 12-year-old boy, who had underlying conditions, is a reminder that people need to remain vigilant in protecting themselves and others from COVID-19.
Ernesto Guzman Lara, 12, was pronounced dead just after midnight Thursday at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Illinois. The primary cause of death was initially listed as pneumonia, with COVID-19 as a contributing factor.
He is the youngest person to die in Cook County since the coronavirus crisis began.
Ernesto lived with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, which weakened his muscles and damaged his nervous system, since he was 6. He also had asthma and sleep apnea.
The 12-year-old’s family wrote in a statement that they will “never forget the importance of unity and family he valued so much.”
Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, says Ernesto’s death is a reminder to stay home and follow social distancing guidelines to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“Every life lost is a tragedy, but it’s somehow more emotional when it’s a child just at the beginning of their life,” Ezike said. “There’s no way that we can predict who will have some of these most severe outcomes. That’s why we’re trying so hard to work on the prevention and limiting the amount of people that get affected.”
More than 4,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Illinois, as of Saturday, of which just over 2,800 were in Cook County.
Copyright 2020 WGN, Family photos via CNN. All rights reserved.