BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) – The coronavirus pandemic claimed its youngest victim yet in Louisiana on Monday – a baby born prematurely after her mother contracted the disease and was put on a ventilator.

“The baby, because of the extreme prematurity did not survive,” said East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Beau Clark, who blamed the mother’s COVID-19 disease for putting her into labor.

The girl survived only one day, and the coroner said both he and Louisiana’s state epidemiologist agreed that she belongs in the state’s grim coronavirus death toll.

Whether the baby had COVID-19 remains under investigation, but Clark said her death is clearly linked to the virus.

If not for her mother’s infection, Clark said, “Likely she would have not gone into preterm labor and there would have been a different outcome. This is an incredibly sad case.”

Clark said the mother was admitted to a hospital on April 1, and remains alive. He provided no details about her condition, and no identifying information.

This premature baby wasn’t the first U.S. newborn to die in similar circumstances, he added.

Louisiana’s coronavirus caseload grew Monday to nearly 15,000 people with confirmed infections, about 12% of whom are hospitalized. The death toll rose by 35 from a day earlier to at least 512.

For most people, the highly contagious coronavirus causes symptoms such as high fever and a dry cough that resolve in several weeks. But some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, can suffer severe symptoms and require respirators to survive.

With health officials warning that New Orleans area hospitals could soon be overwhelmed, the state Monday opened a makeshift “step-down” hospital at the city’s convention center for people with less severe symptoms who don’t need a ventilator or an intensive care unit bed.

Hoping to keep too many people from needing hospital care all at once, Gov. John Bel Edwards has ordered schools closed, limited restaurants to takeout and delivery and shuttered businesses deemed nonessential such as gyms, hair salons and bars through the end of April.

As testing capacity grows, Louisiana officials are getting more data about the extent of the virus’s footprint in the state. The state health department has been able to report more than 69,000 test results so far. The results of thousands of other tests are still pending from commercial labs, hospitals and small testing sites, the department said.


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