Coronavirus Chicago: Boy, 12, marks youngest COVID-19 death in Cook County

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A 12-year-old boy who died early Thursday is the youngest known person to die from a COVID-19 infection in Cook County.

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Ernesto Guzman passed away early Thursday morning after spending the last days of his very young life struggling in a bed at Christ Hospital.

Neighbors remember Ernesto struggling to get from his family's front porch to the school bus.

"He had a walker with him, but I could tell his balance was not fully there," said Rolando Perez, a neighbor. "His strength, I believe, was limited."

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According to a GoFundMe page posted by his uncle, Ernesto suffered from a rare disease that damages nerves and weakens muscles. But it was complications of COVID-19 that killed him at just 12 years old.

"I'm sure everyone is saddened to hear this news," Illinois Dept. of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said. "Every life lost is a tragedy, but somehow it's more emotional when it's a child at the beginning of their life."

"I just lost my father last week to COVID and now it's across the street," Perez said. "It's everywhere."

Neighbors say the 6th grade boy and his family recently moved from the Gage Park home where he grew up. The teachers he left behind at Marquez Elementary are heartbroken.

They remembered him, saying, "Ernesto loved Fortnite, art projects, science experiments, jokes and riddles, spending time with friends, and is remembered for being an incredibly sweet and loving confidant to everyone he met."

The GoFundMe set up by his family has raised more than $12,000 in just a matter of hours.

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At 12 years old, the boy was seven years younger than the next youngest confirmed victim of COVID-19 in Cook County. A 19-year-old man from south suburban Riverdale died April 10 from respiratory failure and a COVID-19 infection, the medical examiner's office said.

Cook County has also recorded two 20 year olds who died from the coronavirus: A man in Park Forest who died on April 25, and another man who died April 14 in West Rogers Park on the Northwest Side. At least 13 other people in the 20s have died from COVID-19 in Cook County.

In late March, Illinois health officials said an infant from Chicago died after testing positive for COVID-19 - the first infant in the U.S. to die with the disease - but that further testing was needed to confirm a cause of death.
Autopsy results for the infant, a 9-month-old boy from the South Loop, are still pending, Derevyanny said Thursday. The medical examiner's office is awaiting test results from a sample currently being tested by the Centers for Disease Control, Derevyanny said.

On Thursday, the medical examiner's office announced another 126 deaths from COVID-19 in the past day, raising the county's total death count to 2,756.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.
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