SUFFOLK, Va. — When 8-year-old Alexander Taylor came home from school last week with a cough and runny nose, his dad panicked and immediately took him to get tested for COVID-19.
"His results came back negative," said Barry Taylor, Alexander's father. "We worry as much as everyone else does about our children and their exposure, both in school and out, to COVID whenever they interact with anyone."
That sense of worry is heightened after hearing the devastating news that hits close to home.
Taylor's third-grade son goes to Hillpoint Elementary in Suffolk — the same school Teresa Sperry attended as a fifth-grader before doctors say she died earlier this week of complications from COVID-19.
"I send my condolences to the family," Barry Taylor said. "I definitely grieve with them. I feel their loss. No parent should bury a child. No parent should bury a very young child, especially from something that looked like a cold or flu."
Teresa's grief-stricken parents are trying to process the unimaginable loss of their only girl, saying she died at the hospital Monday just five days after having flu-like symptoms.
"While I was in that room, her pulse stopped," said Teresa's mother, Nicole Sperry. "They couldn't find her pulse. They spent 30 minutes trying to bring her back."
Nicole and Jeff Sperry said their 10-year-old daughter was healthy before she contracted the virus. They're now urging other parents to honor their daughter by getting vaccinated.
"She was active, and she was healthy, and she loved to dance and loved to sing," Nicole Sperry said. "I want families to know that this is real, and people need to wear their masks."
Barry Taylor said he plans on vaccinating his son Alexander when the shot becomes available for his age group. Until then, the 8-year-old says he knows he needs to mask up.
"If I don't have this mask, germs could spread freely," Alexander said. "The mask in my brain catches the germs, so it doesn't spread."
Although health experts say complications from COVID-19 in children are rare, they recommend those two years of age and older wear a mask to slow the spread.
Meantime, Teresa's father, Jeff, is recovering from COVID-19 himself. The family hopes to start planning her funeral soon. To help with the costs, click here.
This story was originally published by Antoinette DelBel on Scripps station WTKR in Norfolk, Virginia.