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East High student's death last month confirmed as COVID-19
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East High student's death last month confirmed as COVID-19

A 16-year-old East High School junior’s death Nov. 25 has been confirmed as caused by COVID-19, a Public Health Madison and Dane County spokeswoman said Monday.

Isai Morocho’s death will be recorded on the city-county health department’s COVID-19 dashboard Tuesday, spokeswoman Sarah Mattes said, when he will become the youngest reported death from the coronavirus in the state.

“We have received the official medical examiner report on this death confirming it was due to COVID-19,” Mattes said in a statement. “This is the youngest person to die from COVID-19 in Wisconsin. The coronavirus does not discriminate based on age, which underscores just how important it is for all of us to take precautions to protect ourselves and our loved ones from this virus.”

As of Monday, the state Department of Health Services had reported no COVID-19 deaths of people younger than ages 20-29, and the city-county health department had no reported deaths of people younger than 30-39.

The Madison School Board held a moment of silence for Isai during the beginning of their Monday meeting.

“Isai had the most caring and excited attitude about life and he made everyone around him excited to see what he was going to do with his (life). He was known for his empathy, humor and so much more. He was a great friend and family member with a ready smile,” Board President Gloria Reyes said. “Isai’s passing has taken a significant toll on so many students and staff across MMSD and we remember him tonight.”

Reyes said she is saddened by Isai’s passing and hopes his will be the only student death in the district due to COVID-19.

East High School Principal Brendan Kearney announced Isai’s death in a statement to students and families Nov. 29, saying it was from a “COVID-related illness.”

In an interview the same day with the Spanish-language website MiWisconsin posted on YouTube, Isai’s father, Milton Morocho, said his son developed vomiting and diarrhea, apparently on Nov. 18. After his death the next week, someone at the hospital told him Isai had pneumonia related to COVID-19, Milton Morocho said.

Kearney, in a follow-up video message to students and staff Nov. 30, said Isai’s death was “a tremendous loss for everyone in our community and our hearts go out to his family in this time of unimaginable grief, and we’re going to do everything we can to support them as an East High community.”

Kearney said Isai’s family asked him to remind students and staff that the boy was young and healthy “so that we would remember the danger that COVID poses to all of us and that we would do everything we can to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.”

Additional information revealed at the time made the cause of death uncertain, however.

Milton Morocho told MiWisconsin the family took his son to his regular doctor at Dean Clinic, where he tested negative for COVID-19 and the medical staff said he likely had a stomach flu. His father said Isai didn’t have respiratory symptoms, typically present with coronavirus infection.

After the vomiting and diarrhea didn’t go away, the family took Isai to the doctor again, his father said. It’s not clear when. Providers checked his heart and lungs, which are often abnormal in COVID-19, and said they were fine, Milton Morocho said. He said they didn’t do another COVID-19 test.

But when Milton Morocho returned from work one day, apparently the day before Thanksgiving, Isai was sitting down and said he felt sorry and afraid. He said he was hungry and had a snack. Soon after, his father said, he appeared to have passed out suddenly. Milton Morocho said he tried to resuscitate his son until an ambulance arrived and took him to a hospital.

Though Milton Morocho said someone at the hospital told him Isai had pneumonia related to COVID-19, authorities didn’t confirm the cause of death earlier this month citing an ongoing death investigation.

Isai’s obituary said his family called him “Chinto.”

“He was known for his empathy and humor and so much more,” the obituary said. “He was determined to succeed in life, and he made all of us very proud at his accomplishments. … Chinto is and will always be our shining star.”

In the MiWisconsin interview, Milton Morocho said he wasn’t sure where Isai might have contracted a coronavirus infection. He encouraged people to wear masks and get tested but didn’t say if he or others in the family had recently been tested.

“It could have been any of us,” he said. “We could have been asymptomatic.”

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