March 24, 2020 at 8:17 PM EDT – Updated March 24 at 10:24 PM
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles County health officials backtracked Tuesday on their announcement that a child died from coronavirus, saying it’s possible the death was caused by something else.
During their daily briefing, the county health department said the unidentified child from the city of Lancaster was among four new deaths.
Hours later, after Governor Gavin Newsom had cited the death of the teenager as evidence the virus can strike anyone, the county issued a new statement.
“Though early tests indicated a positive result for COVID-19, the case is complex and there may be an alternate explanation for this fatality” and the case will need evaluation by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the statement said.
The health department released no details but Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris told the Los Angeles Times the boy suffered septic shock, a reaction to a widespread infection that can cause dangerously low blood pressure and organ failure. Parris said the boy’s father also has coronavirus and worked in a job where he had close contact with the public.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.
Los Angeles County on Tuesday reported what may be the first U.S. death of a person under 18 from the coronavirus.
Health officials said the youth lived in the Mojave Desert city of Lancaster north of Los Angeles but didn’t provide other details.
“This is a devastating reminder that COVID-19 affects people of all ages,”county Public Health Department Director Barbara Ferrer said.
A report last week by the Centers for Disease Control found no coronavirus deaths in the U.S. among people 19 and under. That age group accounted for less than 3% of all hospitalizations.
Ferrer also reported two additional deaths of people between 50 and 70 and said that over the last 48 hours there had been 256 new cases in Los Angeles County
A tally by Johns Hopkins University on Tuesday found California cases have topped 2,500, with at least 50 deaths.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday said California is preparing for a 90-day surge and will need an additional 50,000 hospital beds to handle it. The state also is scrambling to acquire about 1 billion sets of gloves and hundreds of millions of gowns, surgical masks and face shields for healthcare workers and first responders.
Among other things, he said the state would charter flights from China with gear and had heard from companies wanting to use 3-D printers to make surgical masks.
Last week, the governor announced a stay-at-home order covering 40 million Californians and closing all nonessential retail businesses. Lawmakers have issued urgent pleas for people to only leave their homes to buy food, get medication or perform essential services.
The governor on Monday closed parking lots at dozens of beaches and state parks to prevent the spread of coronavirus after large groups flocked to the coast and mountains to get outdoors on the first weekend under the state’s stay-at-home order.
Newsom reaffirmed he wants to continue using social pressure, not police enforcement, to get people to maintain safe spacing.
In Santa Cruz, where most people are complying with shelter in place rules, some nonessential businesses remained open and some residents were still congregating in groups.
Law enforcement officials warned they will begin enforcing rules that residents shelter in place.
“While we don’t want to resort to citations or arrests, if we don’t see people take this seriously, we’ll have to,” said Sheriff Jim Hart, whose office is receiving dozens of calls daily from people reporting that some residents are gathering in groups and some nonessential businesses are still operating as usual.
In Los Angeles County, where a stay-at-home order was issued last week, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said gun shops are not essential businesses and ordered them to stop selling to the public, a move that enraged Second Amendment advocates who said they planned to challenge it in court.
The stay-at-home order is not a license “for everyone to be panic gun-buying or rushing to stores, which is now what we’re seeing,” Villanueva said.
However, the county counsel’s office took issue with Villanueva’s interpretation.
“Neither the governor’s executive order nor the county’s Department of Public Health order specifically address gun shops,” the agency said in an email. “In interpreting those orders, county counsel has opined that gun stores qualify as essential businesses.”
Associated Press writers Adam Beam and Don Thompson in Sacramento, Kathleen Ronayne, Janie Har and Juliet Williams in San Francisco, Christopher Weber, Stefanie Dazio, Brian Melley and Michael R. Blood in Los Angeles and Julie Watson and Elliot Spagat in San Diego contributed to this report.
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