Ontario coroner investigating deaths of Ottawa COVID-19 patients at home
OTTAWA -- Ontario's chief coroner says investigations are underway into three recent deaths in Ottawa involving COVID-19 patients who died at home, CTV News has confirmed.
The Ottawa Citizen first reported that the coroner was investigating sudden deaths of COVID-19 patients in their homes in Ottawa.
Speaking to CTV News Ottawa, Dr. Dirk Huyer said he was aware of three deaths in the city that were under investigation. He did not have specifics regarding the individuals in Ottawa who died, but said his office is also investigating 29 deaths in the south-central area of the province since the start of April.
"What we're observing is that the majority of them are younger, compared to what we had seen earlier in the pandemic," he said. "They also had family or friends living with them and their deaths seemed to occur more suddenly than the symptoms would have indicated would have been expected."
Huyer said screening for possible COVID-19 variants is still ongoing in these cases. He added that while the individuals in question had symptoms, they were not considered severe.
"There were no specific indications in the early investigation information to suggest that these are people who avoided or had not sought proper health-care," he said. "What we're really trying to understand is why did people who had symptoms … but not severe enough that would have led to hospitalization, die so quickly?"
Last week, Huyer told reporters at Queen's Park that the individuals whose deaths were being investigated ranged in age from their 30s to their 70s.
“These are not people that ambulances have been called because they had been deteriorating... it is not that people were ignoring symptoms from what I’ve read. I need to drill down a little bit deeper, but these were people who did have stable conditions and then deteriorated very quickly,” he said.
On Monday, the province learned of the death of 13-year-old Emily Victoria Viegas, who died in a Brampton hospital just shortly after her father found her unresponsive at home. She is one of the youngest people in Ontario to die of COVID-19.
Ottawa Public Health has reported 34 deaths from COVID-19 in the city so far this month. Data also show that 22 deaths of the 498 total deaths reported since the pandemic began are linked to variant cases; however, it is unclear when each of those deaths occurred.
Speaking on Newstalk 580 CFRA's "Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron", Huyer said his office would not normally investigate if someone died from a disease, but given the suddenness with which these cases occurred, his office is taking several steps to learn more and find any similarities between cases.
"We are taking steps to investigate and that includes reviewing medical records, speaking with family and friends and others who may have been present at the time, evaluating through examination, potentially through an autopsy, testing to see if variants were involved and really trying to get a full understanding the circumstances of the death."
Huyer asked everyone to reduce infection chances for themselves and others.
"Think and work very hard to follow all of the public health measures to the best extent possible," he said. "There are some people that do need to go out and work outside of the home but there are many that can stay home and limit their intersections with others. Really, I think prevention is the key thing to think about to get us past this very challenging time."