Makayla Robinson passed away from Covid-19 complications Saturday, just one day after testing positive for the virus. The 13-year-old Mississippi girl was kept home from school last Thursday but her condition worsened Friday and she was rushed to the hospital.
The eighth grader tested positive for Covid-19 Friday. She died while being airlifted to a Jackson-area hospital on Saturday. Her death surprised her community, especially since most people still believe children are safe from serious Covid-19 symptoms – Robinson passed away hours after Gov. Tate Reeves downplayed the virus’ impact on children.
The Smith County School District Superintendent Nick Hillman announced the tragedy earlier this week. Makayla Robinson went to Raleigh High School in Raleigh, Mississippi, where Hillman is the superintendent.
“It was just sort of a shocker to everyone,” Hillman told reporters. The superintendent said that Makayla Robinson “was one of the best kids we ever had.”
According to reports, Robinson was an honor student and a member of the Raleigh High School band. Hillman said “she was loved by all of her teachers. She was an honor student, a band student. Everybody says if they had 30 kids in the classroom like her, they have the perfect classroom.”
Robinson’s family started a GoFundMe page to “provide services and cover any medical expenses” for the girl’s parents. A post on the fundraiser page read: “Our baby girl MKayla was diagnosed with Covid-19 at the age of 13. She began having some complications, which sent her [to] the hospital. Her family was given the worst news possible, on Saturday, August 14, 2021, when MKayla unfortunately lost her battle with the virus.”
The post continued, admitting that “we are lost, devastated and trying to cope daily. It has been emotionally excruciating to plan memorial services for her as we wish she was still here with us. Your donations will help us provide MKayla with memorial arrangements and any other financial burdens as it relates to her passing.”
So far the GoFundMe page has raised over $10,000 for Makayla Robinson’s family. The organizer concluded the post on the page, saying that “any amount that you see fit to donate is appreciated.”
Reports claimed that Makayla Robinson’s condition escalated quickly. Her heightened symptoms are not common among children and teens, according to Gov. Tate Reeves. He said on Friday that “for most children, it’s just a case of the sniffles.”
After Robinson’s death, the Smith County community is scared that more children infected with Covid-19 will succumb to the virus. Sharon Moore, a Smith County parent admitted that “it’s really scary. And for my daughter and my kids to tell me. Get up this morning and say they didn’t want to go to school. You know it’s scary.”
The Mississippi State Department of Health claimed that Robinson was the fifth person under the age of 18 to die from Covid-19 in the state throughout the pandemic. Now parents are worried that Mississippi schools are not doing enough to keep their children safe.
In his statement Friday, Gov. Tate Reeves said he won’t be making any official mask mandates for schools. He claimed the decision to instate mask policies is left with each individual school district. Reeves previously demeaned the CDC’s updated mask guidance, calling the advice “foolish” and “harmful.”
The governor said, “it has nothing to do with rational science.” He also claimed that in Mississippi, “we believe in freedom.” Since allowing each independent school district to make its own mask policies, only some districts in the state are mandating masks. Most are not.
Parents in Smith County are worried. Raleigh High School reopened on Aug. 6 but did not yet require students to wear masks. Within the first few days, Raleigh High School and the Smith County school district had 76 students and 11 educators who tested positive for Covid-19. Shortly after, 411 students and 11 educators were forced to quarantine.
On Aug. 10, Smith County schools required all students and faculty to wear masks. In a statement, the district said that “after much consideration for the welfare of our children, Smith County Schools will require all personnel and students to wear a mask.”
It’s not clear how effective the mask mandate has been in the Smith County school system. Jerome Black, a parent in the district told reporters that “somebody was sitting beside my kid with Covid-19, and I’m on my way to school right now to pick up my son. He’s 11 years old. To bring him home to quarantine.”
Raleigh High School administrators believe Makayla Robinson’s death will motivate people to get vaccinated. Smith County has the second-lowest vaccination rate in Mississippi. Reports claimed only 22 percent of people in the county were vaccinated.