WASHINGTON, Mo. — A young boy from Washington, Missouri, has died from complications with COVID-19, the family and school officials confirmed.
Peyton Baumgarth was an eighth-grader in the School District of Washington.
According to data published by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, Peyton is the first death in Missouri of anyone under the age of 18.
Peyton's uncle told 5 On Your Side the family never thought anything like this could happen.
"We thought this was a passing, northing worse than the common flu, and obviously that's not the case," said Wayne Franek Jr., Peyton's uncle.
Franek said Peyton's mom also has tested positive for the coronavirus. He said the mother and son were very close.
"I can't imagine what she's going through," Franek said. "Nobody should ever have to deal with that."
Families in the School District of Washington learned the news Sunday night in a note from the superintendent.
"We are saddened to learn of the passing of Peyton Baumgarth, an eighth-grade student at Washington Middle School," wrote Superintendent Lori VanLeer. "We have been informed by his family that he passed away due to complications of COVID-19 over the weekend."
Peyton last attended class on Thursday, Oct. 22. The school was informed he was quarantined on Monday, Oct. 26. Later his family shared he began experiencing symptoms that required hospitalization but he did not improve.
"We extend our heartfelt sympathy to the family and ask that the public respects their privacy. His family deserves nothing less. The family also asks that we all remember to wear masks, wash hands frequently and follow guidelines. COVID-19 is real and they want to remind students and parents to take these precautions in and outside of school," VanLeer wrote.
"The family hopes that people understand that this is real," Franek told 5 On Your Side. "And we need to take any precautions we can as far as wearing masks or washing your hands."
A family spokesperson shared with 5 On Your Side that a GoFundMe page has been set up to help support the family. Those interested in contributing should click here.
The family also issued a statement Monday, saying, in part, "Peyton was a wonderful young man who was just discovering the joys of everything this life has to offer. We would like to thank the medical professionals that assisted our family and all those on the front lines of this pandemic; you are all heroes."
Missouri's health department reported nearly 3,000 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, along with a positivity rate that remains alarmingly high.
The dashboard for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services showed 183,186 COVID-19 cases, a rise of 2,986 from Friday. The death toll for the pandemic has topped 3,000. The dashboard showed 3,024 deaths. Missouri reported the seventh-highest tally of deaths in the nation over the past seven days — 104.
Meanwhile, Missouri's positivity rate of 13.9% is nearly triple the benchmark set by the World Health Organization for reopening. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson allowed the state to reopen in mid-June, without statewide mask or social distancing requirements, though several local jurisdictions have implemented their own laws.
Numbers are rising sharply in the St. Louis area. St. Louis County reported 505 new cases Friday, the most since July 30.
Dr. Alex Garza, leader of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, said the region faces an “extremely dangerous situation.”
“Our numbers are really alarming, and the window of opportunity to turn the tide is rapidly closing," Garza said at a Friday briefing. With each passing day, it gets harder and harder to imagine a path where the health care systems will not become overwhelmed.”
Most of the region's largest hospitals are already at around 90% capacity and 90% intensive care unit capacity, even before the onset of the flu season.