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18-year-old COVID-19 victim ‘declined very quickly,’ MLHU says

FILE. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

The Middlesex-London Health Unit‘s medical officer of health says the region’s youngest COVID-19 victim went into respiratory distress, arrived in hospital and died within the same day.

Dr. Chris Mackie said Thursday that health unit staff “essentially were informed about the case around the same time as the fatality occurred” and “hadn’t even had a chance to begin the case investigation.”

Read more: COVID-19 — 18-year-old among 3 deaths reported in London-Middlesex; 94 cases reported

While few details are available, the health unit does not believe that the unidentified 18-year-old was a high school or post-secondary student. It’s unclear whether or not he was an essential worker.

“One other person who is the main contact for the individual who is sick is also sick,” Mackie said, “and so it’s difficult for us to get full data.”

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A coroner’s investigation is underway and is expected to provide more information but Mackie suggested that he may have had some kind of underlying condition.

“Obviously, there was a unique situation in this individual. We do not get deaths in people of this age group very frequently. This would be among a handful across Canada during the entire pandemic,” he said.

“There are many sort of undiagnosed immune system differences between people that could have been playing a factor here. We don’t have full information.”

Read more: Father confirms London, Ont., 19-year-old died from COVID-19

The 18-year-old was one of three deaths in the region reported by the health unit on Thursday.

The other deaths involved a woman in her 50s and a woman in her 70s who was associated with long-term care.

Mackie says none of them had received the COVID-19 vaccine.

When asked if vaccine access should be expanded to anyone 18 and older, Mackie said the issue is that supply is limited

“We would have to rob Peter to pay Paul. As much as it is tragic to see a death in a person who’s 18, we know that age is a major factor, and so we would have to bump people out of the queue who are at higher risk of dying if we were going to open (it up) to younger (people).”

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However, he did note that, particularly with variants of concern, the health unit is seeing more spread among young people.

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Mayor Ed Holder said his thoughts and prayers are with the families of all of those who have died and he expressed empathy to anyone who’s lost a child.

“What’s it like to lose an 18-year-old? I don’t know. I can tell you what it’s like to lose a 14-year-old. I lost a 14-year-old son,” he said, referencing the death of his stepson Bruno DaSilva in a car crash in 1996.

“There’s no words that describe when you’re a parent, what it is to lose a child. It’s totally devastating. You can’t plan for it. And you never lose that feeling of tragedy and sadness.”

Read more: Canada is seeing a mental health ‘crisis’ but more are willing to discuss it, poll finds

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Holder described the grief as like a black hole with razor blades.

“From time to time, the razor blades go away so they don’t cut you up all the time. But the black hole never leaves. And I give you that as someone who lost a child almost 25 years ago.”

Mackie also noted that such cases can be difficult for health unit staff.

“I haven’t spoken directly with our case contact management team today, but I know that these sorts of cases have certainly hit hard in the past.”

Read more: 40% of adults in MLHU area have at least 1 dose, COVID-19 vaccine access expands Thursday

In addition to the three deaths, the MLHU reported 94 new cases on Thursday, bringing the region’s pandemic case total to 10,903.

Of those, 9,792 have resolved, an increase of 90 from the day before, the health unit said.

Including the three deaths Thursday, the region’s pandemic death toll stands at 206.

— with files from Global News’ Matthew Trevithick.

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