Lake City high schooler dies from COVID-19 as state’s pediatric hospitalizations hit record high
This undated photo provided by Latasha Graham shows Jo’Keria Graham in Lake City, Fla.. In Columbia County, Florida which now has the state's highest cases of COVID-19 per capita, 17-year-old Jo’Keria Graham died just days before she started her senior year of high school. Image via AP.

Florida hospitals reported 215 pediatric cases with COVID-19 as of Friday.

A Lake City high schooler has died as a result of COVID-19, according to a recent report from The Associated Press. She was only days away from starting her senior year.

The teen, 17-year-old Jo’Keria Graham, was in quarantine at home after testing positive for the virus only days before schools started, according to AP. She seemed to be getting better, her family told AP, when she collapsed in the bathroom earlier this month.

As she collapsed, the teen told her grandmother that she couldn’t breathe, the report said.

Graham was a high schooler in Columbia County, which now leads Florida in COVID-19 cases per capita. The teenager’s death comes as Florida hospital officials are reporting more serious COVID-19 cases among young, healthy adults.

In mid-August, a 14-month-old died with COVID-19 at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare — the first child to die there with the disease.

As of Friday, Florida hospitals had 215 pediatric cases with COVID-19, the highest number of child hospitalizations since the start of the pandemic. So far, 12 individuals under 16 have been reported to have died from COVID-19 in the state, including at least five in the past four weeks.

The influx of serious cases from the delta variant among younger people also comes as kids head back to school — an event that has caused uproar across the state as officials and parents debate whether school districts should (or can) require students wear masks.

The latest development in the fight on masking students came on Friday, when a Leon County judge ruled against Gov. Ron DeSantis and his administration’s orders against mask mandates in public schools.

Judge John Cooper ruled the state cannot prevent school districts from requiring masks without allowing parents to opt their children out of mask requirements. That policy stemmed from an executive order DeSantis issued late last month, which Cooper called “arbitrary and capricious.”

Additionally, Cooper ordered that the Department of Education cannot enforce masking emergency rules without allowing districts to prove their orders are reasonable.

DeSantis has vowed to appeal Cooper’s ruling, with the state’s lawyers standing by the assertion that a parent’s right to opt their children from mask mandates falls within the Parents’ Bill of Rights the Governor signed into law in June.

The debate on masking students also comes as pediatricians plead for mandatory face coverings to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. In the American Academy of Pediatricians’ recommendations for the 2021 school year, it urged children 2 and older to wear a face mask.

“AAP recommends universal masking because a significant portion of the student population is not yet eligible for vaccines, and masking is proven to reduce transmission of the virus and to protect those who are not vaccinated,” the organization said in its recommendation.

Kelly Hayes

Kelly Hayes studied journalism and political science at the University of Florida. Kelly was born and raised in Tampa Bay. A recent graduate, she enjoys government and legal reporting. She has experience covering the Florida Legislature as well as local government, and is a proud Alligator alum. You can reach Kelly at [email protected].


  • Sonja Fitch

    August 28, 2021 at 12:20 pm

    You Fing murderer these children Duffus Desantis! If you ain’t drug dealing with big pharma you Fing are willingly killing Floridians and our children! Lock up this piece of crap Duffus Desantis !

    • JLT

      August 28, 2021 at 2:06 pm

      If you read the story you’ll see that neither of these children were exposed in a school, i.e. due to the governor’s school policy. Also every family has the option of online schooling if they regard their student or household to be at high risk.

      • David

        August 29, 2021 at 2:17 pm

        Also every family has the option of online schooling if they can’t wear masks. (Although in my experience it is 100% parents that have issues with masks, not children.)
        Yes, you are correct that these particular two individuals were not in school at the time. However, when Florida’s approx 4 million students are thrown back together, it’ll all be safer, right? How many tens of thousands of Florida students are now home on quarantine?

  • Loraine

    August 28, 2021 at 3:45 pm

    I thought I had read that opting to have online teaching was available for any student BUT no one is talking about that & I can not find it anywhere
    I personally think that is a great option -everyone learns in safety – those in school & masked & those at home unmasked ! Sounds like a winner – winner to me
    My guess of course is that the maskless parents wants the social aspects of school buildings and so they are clamoring : FOUL
    However what these same parents are not realizing or understanding or could “ care less” is the fact that the parents that want their children to wear masks & are also most likely vaccinated themselves are actually TERRIFIED for their own children – and want them no where near the maskless ones
    I think what is happening is safety for all & peace of mind for most !
    Now another option that again the maskless probably would not like or accept is school building with real classrooms & school
    Buses all in designated schools with maskless & probably unmasked teachers too !
    The word compromise has.never entered these people’s brains because of their leader ( the one who I hope is out of a job in the near future )

    • Lorrie Eubanks

      August 28, 2021 at 9:27 pm

      I agree with every word you said. I’m a parent in NJ and all teachers are mandated to get vaxed, however, I do not feel safe sending my child (who has one shot so far) into the lion’s den. Most children in her class are not yet 12 and many more are children of trumpsters who will not get their children vaccinated and who generally take no precautions thanks to their parents.

Comments are closed.


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