Georgia 5-year-old dies after contracting COVID amid coronavirus surge

Father: ‘I have lost my best friend’

Wyatt Gibson waved at strangers in the grocery store because he knew it made them happy. The 5-year-old danced around in tiny cowboy boots, strumming a toy guitar and singing, “I love donkeys and I love dogs.” He enjoyed building things with Legos, visiting the Tennessee Aquarium and helping take care of the horses on his family’s farm in Calhoun.

Wyatt died Friday after he was diagnosed with COVID-19, according to his godmother, Amanda Summey, who spoke on behalf of his parents. His death comes amid a surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations around the world, much of it driven by the spread of the disease among the unvaccinated and the highly contagious delta variant. No vaccines are authorized for children under 12.

Dying at such a young age from COVID-19 is extremely rare. Of the more than 18,600 people who have succumbed to it in Georgia, only 11 were children, state Public Health Department records show. Nationwide, 335 of the roughly 600,000 people who have died from COVID-19 were under 18, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Wyatt’s father, Wes Gibson, and his infant sister, Alyssa, have also tested positive for COVID-19, said Summey.

“In a way, I know that you’re still here, but I miss you so damn much!” Wes Gibson wrote on Facebook, highlighting that Wyatt enjoyed waving at strangers at the store “because he knew that it absolutely made their day.” “I have lost my best friend.”

“In a way, I know that you're still here, but I miss you so damn much!” Wes Gibson wrote on Facebook, highlighting that his son Wyatt enjoyed waving at strangers at the store “because he knew that it absolutely made their day.” “I have lost my best friend.”  (Courtesy of Gibson family)
Caption
“In a way, I know that you're still here, but I miss you so damn much!” Wes Gibson wrote on Facebook, highlighting that his son Wyatt enjoyed waving at strangers at the store “because he knew that it absolutely made their day.” “I have lost my best friend.” (Courtesy of Gibson family)

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Wyatt was a healthy boy with no underlying health conditions before he got sick, Summey said. The family initially thought he had food poisoning, his maternal grandmother, Andrea Mitchell, said in a statement released through Summey on Tuesday.

“A day, two. No appetite, a little vomiting, a bit lethargic,” Mitchell wrote. “He’d barely had more than the sniffle or two as prior illnesses go. Then the white tongue. Alarmed, he was hustled off to the local hospital. Then the next day to TC Thompson Children’s Hospital in Chattanooga, TN.”

Wyatt, Mitchell said, was diagnosed with strep and staph infections and COVID.

“We’d been so careful this whole time for it to find us now?” Mitchell said. “He was fighting for his very life. His mother, up for four days, never leaving between cajoling him to keep moving and fighting and begging him to stay.

“His father, the backbone of the family, coughing from COVID now himself, stood beside in silent worry, beyond believing what he was seeing. Then it ended. On July 16, 2021 at 12:05 p.m., Wyatt died. A massive stroke struck the soul of his brain.”

Wyatt died at the hospital in Chattanooga. Of the more than 10,100 people in Tennessee who have been killed by COVID-19, five were under the age of 11, state Health Department data shows. Asked about Wyatt, an official with the department said he could not provide details about specific cases. A spokeswoman for the hospital where Wyatt died said she could not discuss his case, citing federal privacy laws.

In August of last year, a 1-year-old Cobb County boy had become the youngest in Georgia to die from coronavirus. Two 7-year-old children have also died from COVID-19 in Georgia, including a Savannah boy and a Clayton County girl.

Adults should get vaccinated to protect not only themselves but children who are too young for vaccinations, said Dr. Jane Wilkov, a pediatrician at DeKalb Pediatric Center, which has vaccinated thousands of people.

Meanwhile, Georgians are rallying around Wyatt’s family. A GoFundMe campaign Summey started has already raised more than $27,000 to help cover medical bills, funeral costs and other needs. Summey is gratified by the support.

“It just shows you how much empathy people have,” said Summey, a social worker from Resaca who introduced Wyatt’s parents. “You see the good in people.”

Wyatt’s father is a lieutenant who serves as a supervisor in the uniform patrol division of the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office, where he has worked for about 13 years, said Sheriff Scott Chitwood.

“Every heart is broken within our department with the tragic loss of this precious child,” Chitwood said.

Wyatt’s mother, Alexis Gibson, posted a video of Wyatt on Facebook this week, showing him strumming his guitar and singing. She spoke briefly with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Tuesday about her son.

“He brought love and joy to everybody he ever met,” she said. “I don’t know how I will be able to go anywhere anymore because everybody knew Wyatt.”

Wyatt Gibson's mother, Alexis, posted a video of Wyatt on Facebook this week, showing him in strumming his guitar and singing. “I still feel you holding my hand. I know you're here with us,” she wrote.  (Courtesy of Gibson family)
Caption
Wyatt Gibson's mother, Alexis, posted a video of Wyatt on Facebook this week, showing him in strumming his guitar and singing. “I still feel you holding my hand. I know you're here with us,” she wrote. (Courtesy of Gibson family)

Credit: Court

Credit: Court