JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Friends and family are mourning the loss of an 8-year-old Jacksonville girl after she died early Saturday morning from a COVID-19-related syndrome.
Deaurra Nealy was a second-grader at Twin Lakes Academy Elementary. She was described by her family as a loving, caring little girl who was a good student.
“She strived to be great at everything, her grades. She had all 100s and a 95, and she thought that wasn’t good enough. That’s the type of person she was,” said Dearick Nealy, Deaurra’s father. “She wanted to uplift people, and she brightened the room when she walked in. I mean, she’s inspired so many people in such a short amount of time. I just knew she was just a perfect child.”
According to her father, Deaurra died just days after the initial signs of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome, or MIS-C, which is a disease in children that usually follows an infection or exposure to the coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dearick said his child’s tests came back showing she was negative for the virus but also showed that she had been infected at one point.
“A perfectly healthy child, just going in for a normal stomach ache and a negative COVID test,” he said. “And then her fever wouldn’t break.”
As MIS-C develops, according to the CDC, body parts can become inflamed including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes or gastrointestinal organs.
“Unfortunately, this is a syndrome where it is pretty pronounced when the kids have it,” said Dr. Jonathan Kantor, with Penn Center for Epidemiology. “Again, it’s thought to be somehow a reaction to the body some kind of inflammatory reaction, but not really well understood exactly what is mediating it.”
The CDC says of the syndrome: “We don’t know why some children have gotten sick with MIS-C and others have not. We also do not know if children with certain health conditions are more likely to get MIS-C. These are among the many questions CDC is working to try to understand.”
“The key message is that’s why it’s so important for us to take COVID-19 seriously, in every population,” Kantor said.
Dr. Jeffrey Goldhagen, chief of Community and Societal Pediatrics for UF Health Jacksonville, told News4Jax it’s important to know adults can give the virus to children.
“It may be that adults who are not socially isolating, who are not wearing masks, who are coming down with the disease, many of whom are asymptomatic, are in fact spreading the disease to their children,” Goldhagen warned. “They can get sick, they can spread the disease and they can die from the disease.”
Deaurra’s father said he also wants to warn other families, urging everyone to follow safety guidelines.
“A lot of people are told that COVID-19 doesn’t affect children. And so a lot of people, they get lazy with simple sanitary measures like masks and hand sanitizer -- just something simple,” he said. “It’s to help not pass that on to anyone else.”
The family has started a GoFundMe campaign to help with the medical costs.