More COVID-19 patients dying at home, Ontario coroner says

Some COVID-19 patients are now becoming so ill so quickly that they die before seeking medical attention, Ontario’s chief coroner said. 

At least 25 people have died in their homes rather than in hospitals or nursing homes since April 1, Dr. Dirk Huyer told CBC News Friday. There could be more cases that his office is unaware of, he added.

The new reality is a deviation from earlier waves of the pandemic, when most COVID-19 deaths took place in nursing homes and hospitals. It goes to show how dangerous the current caseload is in Ontario, Huyer said.

He said he was particularly troubled that some of the people who’ve died at home were in their 30s, 40s and 50s.

“That is not what we saw in the earlier waves. It was not common for younger people to die. So absolutely, it is concerning.”

WATCH | Doctor describes ‘really upsetting’ conversations with COVID-19 patients:

Intensive care units across Ontario are dealing with a record number of patients. Dr. Kashif Pirzada, an Toronto emergency care physician, said a day after he saw approximately 20 patients in the span of just a few hours. 0:53

Huyer first mentioned the “unfortunate and sad” phenomenon at a news conference at Queen’s Park Thursday.

“It’s not that people were ignoring symptoms … These are people who did have a stable condition and then deteriorated very quickly to their unfortunate deaths,” he told reporters.

It’s too early to say whether this is happening because of new variants of the virus that are more transmittable and can cause more severe illness, Huyer told CBC.

He said he shared the information, “so that people understand the seriousness of what we’re dealing with.”

“The numbers of cases we have right now is the highest we’ve ever had in Ontario … The more people that are infected, the more people will suffer serious illness, the more people that will die.”

Toronto Mayor John Tory said the situation illuminates how important it is to get tested and see a doctor, “as opposed to hoping that it’s just the sniffles.”

“Whether you die in the hospital or die at home, you’re dying at a young age from an illness that takes people … very quickly,” Tory told CBC’s Metro Morning.

“The real answer,” is to keep your distance, not socialize with others and get vaccinated as soon as you’re eligible, the mayor said. 

“I mean, there is no other answer we have at the moment, to what is just an unspeakable tragedy.”

Nearly 500 deaths this month

Ontario reported 4,505 new cases of COVID-19 Friday and another 34 deaths. There are 2,350 patients hospitalized, with 806 in intensive care and 588 on ventilators.

Deaths have accelerated this month, with 496 Ontarians dying of COVID-19 so far in April compared to 386 in March. But the daily death counts have not returned to the level seen in January and February, when more than 50 deaths were regularly reported on single days.

A total of 7,829 people in the province have died since the pandemic began. Two were 19 years old or younger, 46 were between the ages of 20 and 39 and 363 were between 40 and 59, according to Public Health Ontario’s most recent report.

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