LOS ANGELES: The first known death of a child due to COVID-19 in the United States was a teenager in previously good health, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said on Tuesday (Mar 24).
The death of the youth from Lancaster, just north of Los Angeles, was reported hours earlier by public health officials, and comes despite the disease not typically proving severe for juveniles.
"A teenager in good health, succumbed to this virus," said Garcetti.
"To the young people that are out there - this can hit you too. Know that your behaviour can save a life, and can take a life. And that life could be yours," he added.
The victim's identity and sex were not specified.
Lancaster Mayor R Rex Parris told the Los Angeles Times the patient was a teenage boy who died of septic shock and the boy's father was also infected with coronavirus.
"COVID-19 does not discriminate by age, race or income level," said Los Angeles County public health director Barbara Ferrer, using the scientific term for the disease caused by the SARS-COV-2.
California Governor Gavin Newsom emphasised that the teenager's death should be a warning to all, noting that half of the people infected in California are between the ages of 18 and 49.
"What more evidence do you need than the loss of a young person's life?" said Newsom.
"I just cannot impress upon young people out there more, the seriousness of this moment, and how critical they are to ultimately getting us on the other side by practicing that social distancing."
Newsom said while hospitalisation rates are higher among older people, the virus was hitting all age groups.
"Young people can and will be impacted by this virus," he said.
"With this tragic death, it is a reminder for everybody to take this seriously," he added.
Multiple studies have found COVID-19 disproportionately affects older patients and those with underlying conditions.
A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report found juveniles "appear to have milder COVID-19 illness", with no intensive care admissions or deaths in the US as of Mar 16.
"Similar to reports from other countries, this finding suggests that the risk for serious disease and death from COVID-19 is higher in older age groups," it found.
Only two known cases of minors dying from the disease in China have been recorded. In one case, an infant had a pre-existing intestinal condition. The other's situation was not known.
"The risk for serious disease and death in COVID-19 cases among persons in the United States increases with age," the CDC report added.
California has been one of the worst-hit US states during the pandemic.
Los Angeles County - which is home to 10 million residents - has confirmed 662 cases of coronavirus, with at least 11 deaths, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker.