Alberta marks first COVID-related death of child under 1

Front-line health-care workers in Alberta help COVID-19 patients in hospital. Courtesy: Twitter/Alberta Health Services

Alberta has marked another sobering milestone in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic: an infant has died of the disease.

On Wednesday, the province updated its COVID-19 dashboard with two weeks-worth of data. Technical difficulties prevented last week’s update.

According to Alberta Health, a child under one year of age died in December 2022 and their death was reclassified as due to COVID within the last two weeks.

It is not uncommon for deaths to be reclassified as due to or not due to the coronavirus, depending on medical experts’ opinions and other documentation.

In the past fortnight, 24 more Albertans had their deaths attributed to the coronavirus, bringing the pandemic death toll to 5,643. The infant was one of those deaths and the first in the under-1 age cohort.

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“We will not be identifying the gender of the child, or the zone this happened in, due to privacy considerations,” the health ministry said in an emailed statement.

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The under-1 age cohort has had hospitalization and ICU admission rates that nearly match the 60- to 69-year-old age cohort, based on population rate.

As of March 27, there were 465 COVID hospitalizations, 21 fewer than two weeks ago. As of Monday, 25 people were in ICU with COVID, an increase of 14 in as many days.

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Genomic sequencing of PCR tests – tests that have been limited to people who live and/or work in high-risk settings – show the XBB.1.5 subvariant became dominant in the week of Feb. 26, representing more than half of the tests since then.

The subvariant nicknamed Kraken represented five per cent of sequencing in the week of Jan. 22, and was considered the most-transmissible COVID variant to date.

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Starting next week, PCR testing sites across the province will close. Molecular testing will only be available to people at risk of severe outcomes if required to support their clinical care or for outbreak management of people living in “specific high-risk settings.”

On March 22, the province said it suggests people use rapid antigen tests to determine whether they have COVID-19. Earlier in the month, the federal government stopped shipping rapid tests to provinces, with the 90 million tests in the federal inventory to expire within two years.

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