KEY POINTS

  • Mkayla Robinson attended school most of the week before falling ill from Thursday through Friday
  • The girl tested COVID-19 positive late Friday and passed away Saturday
  • Gov. Tate Reeves downplayed the effect of COVID-19 on children one day before Robinson’s death

A 13-year-old eighth grader in Mississippi recently passed away within hours after testing positive for COVID-19, raising concerns about the increasing number of positive cases among children in the state.

The girl, identified as Mkayla Robinson, died Saturday. She attended classes at the Raleigh High School most of the week, from Monday through Wednesday, before testing positive for the virus at the end of the week, the Mississippi Free Press reported, citing sources. Her school did not have a mask mandate.

Family members said Robinson first developed a sore throat and had to stay home Thursday and Friday until her COVID-19 positive results came out Friday, CBS affiliate WLOX reported. Neighbor Erica Epting told the outlet that Robinson had gone to the hospital, but they sent her home "that same evening knowing she was sick."

"They should have sent her to a hospital to get her some help," she added.

Robinson, a member of the Jr. High Lion Pride Band, the school’s band, was recognized as “an outstanding band member and student, local newspaper the Smith County Reformer reported. Band director Paul Harrison wrote on the band’s Facebook page that Robinson was “the perfect student.”

The Mississippi Department of Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have both called for mask-wearing in schools. However, Raleigh High School is part of the Smith County School District which does not require students and school staff to wear masks.

When Smith County schools opened the current school year, students and staff were asked to bring face masks to school, but they were not required to wear them, Mississippi Today reported.

On Aug. 10, the district reversed its guidelines and required masks to be worn in school. Around the same time, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases among students increased. As of late last week, more than 400 students and staff were placed under quarantine.

On Friday, the day before Robinson passed away, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves downplayed the impact of the virus on children. “For most children, it’s just a case of the sniffles,” Reeves said, ABC affiliate WAPT reported.

Parents have been calling for a mask mandate even before classes started on Aug. 6 but to no avail. Reeves has repeatedly said that he will not issue state-wide mask mandates as was the case last year.

Mississippi reported 7,839 new COVID-19 cases for the 3-day period ending 3.00 p.m. Aug. 15 and 52 new deaths, according to the state's health department. The U.S. has so far reported about 37 million COVID-19 infectons and 622,000 deaths.

The Mississippi state flag (R) is seen outside the governor's office at the state capitol building in Jackson, Mississippi -- Governor Tate Reeves has said he will sign the bill to change the flag into law The Mississippi state flag (R) is seen outside the governor's office at the state capitol building in Jackson, Mississippi -- Governor Tate Reeves has said he will sign the bill to change the flag into law Photo: AFP / Rory Doyle