Alberta’s top doctor delivered a public apology Thursday after saying earlier this week that a 14-year-old boy with other medical conditions had died from COVID-19.
While an initial report had indicated that COVID-19 was a secondary cause of the teen’s death, a subsequent review has determined that not to be the case, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw told a news conference.
“I first want to apologize to the family of the 14-year-old whose death I spoke about on Tuesday,” she said after stepping to the podium.
“The pain of losing a child is terrible enough without having that loss compounded by a public debate about the circumstances.
“I am sorry if the way that I spoke about that just made your grief worse.”
Alberta typically records deaths where COVID-19 may have been a primary or secondary cause. Deaths of people who were recently diagnosed with COVID-19 are also reported, Hinshaw said.
In cases where the cause of death is not certain, the cases are reviewed. If it turns out that COVID-19 is not a primary or secondary cause of death, that death is removed from the total.
In future, the Alberta government will not publicly report any COVID-19 deaths in anyone under 18 until a review of the death has been completed, she said.
“We will prioritize accuracy over timeliness in these cases.”
30 new deaths
Over the last 24 hours, Alberta Health has identified 916 new cases of the disease and conducted 12,700 tests, Hinshaw said. The test positivity rate was about 7.5 per cent.
Thirty new deaths were reported to Alberta Health over the last 24 hours, which occurred between Oct. 7 and Oct. 13, Hinshaw said. Most involved people who were not fully vaccinated, she said.
There are currently 1,016 patients in hospital being treated for the disease, including 231 in ICU.
Alberta has 13,423 active cases. Here is how they break down across the province’s health zones:
- Calgary: 3,466
- Edmonton: 3,149
- Central: 2,645
- North: 2,612
- South: 1,534
- Unknown: 17
Pressure on hospitals slowly easing
Dr. Verna Yiu, president and CEO of Alberta Health Services, said pressure on the province’s hospitals and intensive care units is slowly easing.
As of Thursday morning, Alberta’s ICUs had 76 per cent occupancy and 97 beds were available to anyone needing critical care, she said.
She said that’s a significant improvement from a month ago, when ICU capacity had reached 90 per cent, including surge beds, and the number of patients admitted to ICU was increasing daily.
A month ago, more than 20 patients were admitted to ICU each day. That is down to about 13 to 15 per day, she said.
“After experiencing perhaps the most difficult period in our health-care system, we welcome good news,” Yiu said. “We are grateful that the numbers appear to be falling. But we know that this trend can be reversed easily, especially if we become complacent.”
The impact of Thanksgiving gatherings remains to be seen, she added.
Yiu said health-care workers are still being pushed to their limits. Pressures on the health-care system are still high, creating heavy workloads for health-care workers, she said.
“Improving numbers does not mean that the workload suddenly returns to normal. Their days continue to be extraordinary, and their efforts remain above and beyond what is usually expected of them,” she said.
Red Cross personnel now in Alberta
On Thursday, the Canadian Red Cross said nine Red Cross medical personnel are now deployed in Alberta, with additional support arriving in the coming days and weeks. Alberta’s government requested the help.
The organization said it expects up to 20 of its medical personnel will work in Alberta hospitals and testing and vaccination centres, in locations including Red Deer, Grande Prairie, Wetaskiwin and Lacombe.
The Canadian Armed Forces has also deployed a contingent of nurses to Alberta.
Flu shot campaign starts Monday
Alberta Health officially launches its annual flu shot campaign Monday, and both doctors on Thursday urged all Albertans to get an influenza vaccination to avoid potential strain on the health-care system.
While there were zero cases of the flu in Alberta last year, there have been three confirmed cases so far this season, Hinshaw said. The symptoms for flu and COVID-19 are very similar, she added.
Hinshaw said research says it is safe for people to receive doses of both vaccines at the same time.