Mississippi eighth grader dies of COVID-19 amid escalating mask battle

A 13-year-old from Raleigh, Miss., died only one day after she tested positive for COVID-19, CNN reported, amid a state and national debate over mask rules in schools.

Mkayla Robinson, an eighth grader at Raleigh High School, was reportedly not feeling well last Thursday and stayed home from school, according to the Mississippi Free Press. However, after testing positive for the coronavirus on Friday, she was taken to the hospital. The Free Press reported it was unclear whether she was vaccinated. 

Robinson died on Saturday while she was being airlifted to a Jackson area hospital, according to CNN.

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Serious and fatal COVID-19 cases in children have been considered uncommon throughout the pandemic, but they do happen.

Robinson is only the fifth COVID-19-related pediatric death in the state since the pandemic began, the Mississippi State Department of Health told CNN. The state overall has recorded 7,880 COVID-19 deaths.

But the Free Press reported the only children's hospital in the state is full and that while most children who get COVID-19 recover, there have been cases of "long" COVID-19 in which children have dealt with adverse conditions for lengthy periods of time.

Schools across the country are battlegrounds over mask mandates as students prepare to return to school amid a widening pandemic caused by the highly contagious delta variant.

The school district covering Raleigh High School started requiring masks four days after school started on Aug. 6. The district reported 104 positive cases among students and staff on Tuesday, with 659 currently quarantining, according to their COVID-19 dashboard.

Just more than 36 percent of the state is fully vaccinated, according to Our World Data.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) said he is leaving masking up to school districts and did not issue a state mandate. However, he is calling on residents to get vaccinated. 

"Either the vaccine works or it doesn't. I believe it does, and it works in two ways; makes you significantly less likely to get the virus, and the second phase, makes it even less likely that you are going to end up hospitalized or in an ICU bed," Reeves said.