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.
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.