MONTREAL — A 19-year-old in Quebec has died from complications linked to COVID-19, the Health Department confirmed Friday, marking the first time since the pandemic hit that someone in the province under the age of 20 has succumbed to the disease.
Spokeswoman Marie-Claude Lacasse said in an emailed statement the Health Department cannot release any information about the identity of the person who died, or any details about the death.
The province said 3,279 people between the ages of 10 and 19 have tested positive for COVID-19 to date. Among those cases, 31 people needed to be hospitalized, including six who were in intensive care.
Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu offered her condolences to the family of the 19-year-old Friday, as did Quebec Premier Francois Legault.
"It's hard to find words for how much suffering that family must be going through right now," Hajdu told a news conference in Ottawa.
"It's troubling, it's worrying," Legault told reporters northeast of Montreal, regarding the young man's death.
"(COVID-19) attacks vulnerable people more, people who are older, but young people are not immune," the premier said, stressing the need to wear a mask to prevent the potential spread of the deadly virus.
Dr. Brian Ward, a professor of infectious diseases at the McGill University Health Centre, said while COVID-19 poses a greater risk to older people and individuals with medical problems, young people can still become seriously ill from the disease.
"It's not the first death in the world of somebody under the age of 20," Ward said in an interview Friday. "And so, as long as Canada continues to accumulate cases, we can expect more deaths across the age range."
Dr. Earl Rubin, a specialist in pediatric infectious diseases at the Montreal Children's Hospital, said young people dying from COVID-19 is a "very rare occurrence," and most youth who do test positive do not need to be hospitalized.
But, he said, the 19-year-old's death may serve as an important reminder for young people to follow public health guidelines.
"It is a wake-up call that (COVID-19) is still an illness that they have to be aware of and do whatever they can to mitigate the chance of acquiring it and then transmitting it to others," Rubin said in an interview Friday.
"It just reinforces that we are far from out of the woods and with a second wave potentially upon us, it's important to remember and to heed and learn from it, more than anything else."
Meanwhile, Quebec reported 93 new COVID-19 cases Friday, for a total of 61,495. Public health officials also reported three more deaths attributed to COVID-19. They said one death occurred in the past 24 hours while two others occurred between Aug. 14-20.
Quebec has reported a total of 5,733 deaths linked to the novel coronavirus.
The number of hospitalizations dropped by 10 to a total of 136 on Friday. Of those, 23 people are in intensive care, two fewer than a day earlier. Authorities said they conducted 16,164 COVID-19 tests Wednesday, the last day for which testing data is available.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 21, 2020.
Jillian Kestler D'Amours, The Canadian Press