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Pennsylvania teen recently died of coronavirus, becoming youngest COVID-19 victim in state

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The Pennsylvania Department of Health recently recorded the youngest person to die of the coronavirus in the state — an 18-year-old.

Nate Wardle, press secretary for the department, told the Press & Journal via email Sunday that the 18-year-old is the youngest reported death, but he said details would not be released, including where the person lived or their gender. He said the state is not releasing that level of data about coronavirus cases.

The death was recently reported, but Wardle would not say when.

The next youngest person to die was in their 20s, Wardle said. Television station WFMZ reported a 20-year-old Berks County woman died of the coronavirus April 27 at Reading Hospital, but it is unclear if this is to whom Wardle was referring.

The Press & Journal inquired about the death because the daily press release sent out by the department no longer includes a sentence that says there are no pediatric deaths in the state, as they had since the beginning of the pandemic. Friday’s press release included the sentence. Saturday’s did not.

Wardle said that although an 18-year-old is legally an adult, the age falls within the department’s 13- to 18-year-old death total. Only 1 percent of the total coronavirus cases in the state are in that age group. 

Senior citizens are much more susceptible to the coronavirus. Residents of nursing homes make up an overwhelming majority of the deaths reported in Pennsylvania. Out of the 3,688 total deaths reported Saturday, 2,518 have occurred in residents from nursing or personal care facilities — about 68.3 percent.

Pennsylvania Department of Health Secretary Rachel Levine said April 25 that a “significant amount” of state residents who have died from the coronavirus had pre-existing conditions that might have contributed to their deaths.

Co-morbidity is a term that Levine often uses in press conferences. It is the the simultaneous presence of two or more chronic diseases or conditions in a patient. Levine specifically mentioned heart disease, high blood pressure, lung disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, diabetes and kidney disease.

“Many of those patients have co-morbid conditions, sometimes clusters of co-morbid conditions, and that puts them at particular risk for contracting COVID-19 and from getting very ill and tragically passing away,” she said of senior citizens.

Here are the positive cases by age range, based on information released Saturday by the department:

• 0-4 years, less than 1 percent

• 5 to 12 years, less than 1 percent

• 13 to 18 years, 1 percent

• 19 to 24 years, 6 percent

• 25 to 49 years, 37 percent

• 50 to 64 years, 26 percent

• 65 and older, 28 percent