SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Military Academy has confirmed the identities of two teens who died recently from the flu as students who attended the school.
“Parents, we are incapable of adequately expressing our sorrow from the devastating loss of two cadets this weekend. Cadets Braxton Graham (8th grade) and Jaime Navarro (11th grade) passed away at Primary Children’s Hospital from unrelated illnesses on Friday and Saturday, respectively,” school administration said in an email to parents.
The school confirmed the validity of the email to the Deseret News. Utah Military Academy is free public charter school in Ogden for students in seventh through 12 grade.
Friends and relatives of the teens who died remembered them on each’s respective GoFundMe memorial page set up for family members.
“Jaime was a light to our sixth grade students and teachers at Roy Elementary. I am heartbroken. Sending love and prayers,” one woman said of Jaime.
“School will not be the same without you. Me and my family hurt for you and yours. You were a great friend. And all of us on the Ranger team will miss you,” another commenter wrote.
A family friend remembered Braxton on his GoFundMe as “the BEST big brother to his 7 year old sister, 3 & 1 year old brothers.”
“He was turning into such a funny teenager! Always cracking jokes and being silly. He talked about joining the Air Force when he got older,” Braxton’s memorial page said.
School officials said the teens died from different strains of the virus, and assured parents the school prioritizes cleanliness and cadet safety.
“The cadets’ deaths remain under investigation, but currently there are no known additional links. The health department is encouraging families to get the flu vaccine, keep cadets home from school when they are ill, and practice good hand-washing/respiratory etiquette,” school administration urged.
“Secondly, our cleaning company is taking extra measures to sanitize and disinfect the school this afternoon as a precaution, and teachers will do their best to continue to keep classrooms sanitized between classes during flu season,” the statement continued.
Classes will continue on Monday, according to the email, with additional counselors available to talk to the teachers and students.
With flu activity currently considered high and widespread throughout the state, health officials are encouraging people it’s not too late to get vaccinated.
“We know the community is seeing high levels of influenza-like illness right now, and it is widespread throughout the state. Both strains identified in the cadets are known to be circulating in the community right now, and both are considered normal seasonal influenza strains. Also, protection against both strains identified are included in this year’s influenza vaccine,” the Weber-Morgan Health Department said in a statement included in the email.
Fifty-four pediatric deaths from the flu have occurred in the U.S. this flu season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Contributing: Tania Dean