Isai Morocho, a 16-year-old Madison East High School junior, died during Thanksgiving break after a “brief, COVID-related illness,” according to an email Principal Brendan Kearney sent to students and families.
Morocho is believed to be the first person under the age of 20 to die of COVID-19 in Wisconsin.
In his email to students and families, Kearney emphasized the impact that the virus can have on people of any age.
"We also want to recognize this tragic loss of life as a reminder of the threat that the COVID-19 pandemic poses to all members of our community, young or old," Kearney wrote. "Receiving news like this in a time when we are unable to gather and meet in person is especially difficult and we all have our own ways of coping with loss."
5,351 people from ages 10-19 have contracted COVID-19 in Dane County since Feb. 5.
Milton Morocho, Isai’s father, gave an interview to MiWisconsin Latinos, but going forward, his family has asked for privacy.
However, Madison Metropolitan School District spokesman Timothy LeMonds said that Isai’s family did urge the district to be clear that he had died of COVID in order to raise awareness for other MMSD students to the “seriousness of the virus.”
To assist with the funeral expenses, the family started a GoFundMe campaign. So far, they’ve raised $18,181 of their $20,000 goal.
“It is with difficult hearts and extreme shock and sadness that we say our beloved Isai, who was important and kind to all, has passed and has gone to the glory of God,” family member Maria A. SantaCruz wrote in her fundraiser statement on GoFundMe. "At this time my family is going through the hardest time possible and anything [that] can help to ease them would be appreciated.”
His aunt told WISN 12 News Morocho "was very healthy" before he contracted COVID-19. Morocho’s father said to the MiWisconsin Latinos that his son previously went to a medical center after experiencing severe vomiting and diarrhea, but the test that was conducted came back negative. The toxicology test delivered to Morocho’s parents after his death stated that he had passed due to a "COVID-19 pneumonia."
Despite announcements made by the family and school district, local health officials have been unable to confirm the cause of death. In a statement to the Daily Cardinal, Public Health Madison & Dane County said that it could take weeks or even months to know whether or not Morocho died of COVID-19.
“Unless we receive a record from a medical facility or medical examiner indicating that the death is due to COVID, our practice is to wait for a death certificate to confirm whether COVID was listed on the death certificate as an underlying or contributing cause of death,” Spokesperson Christy Vogt said.