In baby’s death, COVID-19 ‘significant’ factor, not ‘immediate cause’

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The 2-month-old Michigan infant whose death was ruled a COVID-19 fatality had other complicating medical conditions.

The baby boy, who the state said was the youngest person known to die of COVID-19 in Michigan, was born with an opening in his abdominal wall. The condition, known as gastroschisis, causes the bowel to develop outside of the baby’s body while in the womb.

The child’s death came to light when Michigan’s top medical officer mentioned it during Wednesday‘s COVID-19 briefing.

“I was so saddened to hear this week of a 2-month-old baby in Michigan who died because of COVID-19 and my condolences go out to their parents and family,” Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan’s chief medical executive, said.

Redacted documents outline the death of a 2-month-old with a gastrointestinal defect and COVID-19.

The infant lived in Michigan but died at Children’s Hospital near Milwaukee.

According to the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s “Final Cause of Death” report, the baby’s “immediate cause” of death was “complications of gastroschisis.”

Under “Significant Conditions” contributing to the death, the medical examiner’s report listed “Necrotizing enterocolitis” and “novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.”

Redacted documents outline the death of a 2-month-old with a gastrointestinal defect and COVID-19.

The baby, who was born at 37 weeks, had developed nectorizing enterocolotis, a condition in which bacteria invades the intestinal wall causing infection and inflammation.

But an investigator with the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office noted the child had reportedly been improving at home following surgery.

That changed Sept. 8, when the baby “developed vomiting and diarrhea,” after which he was diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the Milwaukee County M.E. investigator.

“This 2-month-old infant died from COVID-19. He had GI symptoms of the disease, which exacerbated his tenuous congenital defects,” wrote the investigator in the synopsis section of the medical examiner’s report. “The infant coded today at the hospital after developing acute respiratory symptoms.”

According to the report, the infant, who was not from West Michigan, had been flown to Children’s Hospital near Milwaukee due to a lack of hospital beds in Ann Arbor.

At the conclusion of the narrative report, the investigator noted that “the nurse stated that COVID-19 caused his recent issues.”

Redacted documents outline the death of a 2-month-old with a gastrointestinal defect and COVID-19.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said it follows national standards when determining which deaths are associated with COVID-19.

MDHHS spokesman Bob Wheaton said the state considers a death COVID-19-related if the fatality was due to natural causes, there’s a positive COVID-19 test and the death was within 30 days of the virus’s onset.

According to Wheaton, if the death happened more than 30 days after the onset of symptoms and the other factors are present, the state will count the death as COVID-19-associated if “the certifying physician identifies COVID-19 as a contributing factor to the death.”

The infant, whose death was ruled natural, died Sept. 13. He was 2 months and 12 days old.