Death of Manitoban boy under 10 a rare but sad reminder of reality of COVID-19, expert says

It’s rare for children to have such severe cases of COVID-19, but the death of a boy under 10 announced on Saturday is another reminder to take the pandemic seriously, an emerging virus researcher says.

The boy is the youngest person in Manitoba to die from the illness to date.

“This is a very sad reminder of the reality of the situation that we’re in,” said Jason Kindrachuk, an assistant professor and Canada research chair in emerging viruses at the University of Manitoba.

“This is something we have to continue to take very seriously and we cannot lose sight of at this point in time.”

Unlike the flu, which tends to have severe outcomes among the young and the elderly, children rarely die or get very ill after contracting COVID-19, which can provide some solace to parents, Kindrachuk said.

Jason Kindrachuk, an assistant professor and Canada research chair in the department of medical microbiology and infectious diseases at the University of Manitoba, says it’s very rare for children to die from COVID-19. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

“But when we do see that these events take place, it’s an even more tragic reminder of where we are in this pandemic. Unfortunately, we still have difficulty in trying to protect all those around us,” he said.

Although the death of a child is tragic, Kindrachuk doesn’t think it will prompt skeptics to start taking public health orders more seriously.

“I don’t think this is going to be the point that changes things, but I hope that for those of us that are trying to find a way through this, that maybe it provides us, again, with with the perspective that this is something we have to continue to take very seriously and that we cannot lose sight of at this point in time.”

‘Some light’

Manitoba reported 487 new cases and 10 deaths on Saturday, and 365 new cases and 11 deaths on Sunday.

There was also a record 336 people in hospital with COVID-19, up from 327 on Saturday. Of those, 44 are in intensive care, a news release said on Sunday.

The numbers are “concerning,” Kindrachuk said, and signal that public health restrictions may need to be in place longer before case numbers and hospitalizations stabilize.

“The trouble for Manitoba as a whole is that the test positivity rate was extremely high and there was a lot of community transmission, so is there going to be enough change within that two to four week period to see a really great or substantial effect?”

“It may actually take longer.”

However, there is some good news, he said.

The test positivity rate appears to be stabilizing. The five-day test positivity rate was 13.3 per cent on Sunday, its lowest since it first reached 13 per cent on Nov. 16. It was at a record 14.8 per cent on Nov. 26.

“We’re seeing at least some indications with some of the data that perhaps there is some some light at the end of the tunnel,” Kindrachuk said.