SACRAMENTO COUNTY, Calif. — An Elk Grove mother is searching for answers after the unexpected death of her 10-year-old son. On July 12, Peerless Turner died in the early morning at the hospital after spending the night at his grandmother's house in Natomas.
"He went to sleep and didn't wake up," said Ayriana Lambert, mother of Turner. "The hospital tried, the paramedics tried, my dad tried, and my aunt tried to save him."
Even though Turner tested positive for COVID-19, the Sacramento County Coroner's Office said the cause of death is still undetermined at this time. It could take up to four months to determine the cause of death and to determine whether COVID-19 played a role.
"This was totally unexpected," Lambert said. "There were no signs. That was his second time testing positive. His first positive was in December of 2020."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 4-million children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic. Data also shows at least 397 children have died due to the virus. When exploring COVID-19 children deaths by race, the numbers show 146 Hispanic or Latino, 119 White, 90 Black, 16 Asian, 10 more than one race, 6 Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, 5 American Indian or Alaska Native, and 5 race unknown.
In the latest move to protect the nation's youth, the American Academy Pediatrics is recommending universal masking in schools, regardless of vaccination status. The recommendation is based on the fact that a significant portion of the student population is not yet eligible for vaccines.
“There are many children and others who cannot be vaccinated,” said Sara Bode, MD, FAAP, chair-person elect of the AAP Council on School Health Executive Committee. “This is why it’s important to use every tool in our toolkit to safeguard children from COVID-19. Universal masking is one of those tools, and has been proven effective in protecting people against other respiratory diseases, as well. It’s also the most effective strategy to create consistent messages and expectations among students without the added burden of needing to monitor everyone’s vaccination status.”
Health experts say masking is proven to reduce transmission of the virus and to protect those who are not vaccinated. Many schools will not have a system to monitor vaccine status of students, teachers and staff, and some communities overall have low vaccination uptake where the virus may be circulating more prominently.
As the Turner family continues to wait for answers from the Sacramento County Coroner's Office regarding the exact cause of death, Lambert is encouraging other parents to remain vigilant against COVID-19 and other diseases.
"Peerless, himself, wanted to get vaccinated and he was upset because he was too young," Lambert said. "I'm trying to protect my nieces, nephews, cousins, and everybody."