Kali Cook was 4 years old. She hated bows and liked to play with worms.
She lived in Bacliff with her mother, father and older siblings. She attended pre-kindergarten classes in the Dickinson Independent School District.
On Tuesday, she died of COVID-19, according to the Galveston County Health District.
The death came quickly and underscores warnings from local physicians that although children tend to fare well against COVID, when they do become ill they can become very ill and illness can progress rapidly.
Kali is the youngest county resident to die with the virus, which has claimed 465 other lives here since it emerged in March 2020.
No other county resident younger than age 20 has succumbed to the virus.
“She was so funny and sassy,” said Karra Harwood, Kali’s mother. “She wasn’t your average little girl. She’d rather play with worms and frogs than wear bows. She was just so pretty and full of life.”
Through sobs Thursday, Harwood said she didn’t want people to think of her daughter as an anonymous statistic. She wanted people to know who her daughter was.
“I would rather her be a name than just a little girl,” she said. “She was beautiful.”
Galveston County Local Health Authority Philip Keiser called the death a tragedy.
“This is a terrible thing, but I think people need to know about it,” Keiser said.
Health district officials didn’t release Kali and Harwood’s personal information. The Daily News was able to independently confirm their identities.
Kali never tested positive for the virus, and she wasn’t confirmed to be carrying it until she was examined by the Galveston County Medical Examiner’s Office.
“I ended up getting COVID and was diagnosed on Monday,” Harwood said. “I came home and was isolated. I tried to stay away from her and didn’t want her and my other kids to get it.”
Harwood said her daughter had no diagnosed immune disorders or other health conditions. She did tend to get sicker than her siblings, Harwood said.
About 2 a.m. Tuesday, Harwood’s mother noticed Kali had a fever, she said. They gave her medicine to combat it.
By 7 a.m., Kali was gone.
“She died in her sleep,” Harwood said.
Harwood and most of the rest of her family were quarantined because of their own COVID infections. She said she and her fiancé were out of work because of the pandemic.
Harwood said she wasn’t vaccinated.
“I was one of the people that was anti, I was against it,” she said. “Now, I wish I never was.”
Dickinson Independent School District on Thursday evening confirmed Kali was a student at K. E. Little Elementary in Bacliff. She was last in class Sept. 1, the district said.
Health officials said they didn’t believe the girl was infected at her school. Contact tracing performed by the health district showed that no students or adults who were in close contact with her had tested positive for the virus, Keiser said.
Like all children younger than 12 years, Kali wasn’t yet eligible to be vaccinated. Amid the two-month spike in coronavirus cases in Galveston County and across the country, health officials have pleaded with people to get vaccinated to help protect others against the spread of the virus.
About 60 percent of eligible Galveston County residents, and about half of all the county’s total population, have received full courses of vaccines.
Because of the delta variant, the number of children confirmed to have the virus hit record numbers in Galveston County. Nearly 30 percent of all cases in children under 12 years occurred in August, according to the health district.
Children generally don’t suffer serious symptoms from the virus; but health officials have emphasized that children who do present with symptoms should receive medical care as soon as possible.
“It’s very important, if your kids are sick, not to say, ‘Oh, they’re going to be OK,’” Keiser said. “If your kids are sick, go seek out medical care.”
Written by John Wayne Ferguson