Just 10 otherwise healthy people in Alberta have died from Covid: Likely Elderly

Ten. That’s the number of otherwise healthy people who have died from COVID-19 in Alberta since the beginning of the pandemic.This may come as a surprise to people both in Alberta and around the country who are following the second wave of COVID-19 as it sends daily case counts rising in many Canadian provinces. One gets the sense that things are much worse.But that is in fact the number from Alberta’s own official COVID-19 statistics.

The province’s comorbidity fact sheet is updated weekly, with the last one released on Nov. 11. The number of COVID-19 deaths recorded at that time was 369 individuals.

Out of that number, 75.3% of Albertans who died had done so while suffering “with 3 or more conditions” in addition to COVID-19.

The next highest figure were those suffering from two comorbidities in addition to COVID-19, which made up 16.5% of cases. Those with one extra condition made up 5.4%. And those without a comorbidity were 2.7% of the tally, or 10 persons.

As the Alberta government’s website explains: “The following comorbidities are included in respective analyses: Diabetes, Hypertension, COPD, Cancer, Dementia, Stroke, Liver cirrhosis, Cardiovascular diseases (including IHD and Congestive heart failure), Chronic kidney disease, and Immuno-deficiency.”Note that old age is not listed as a comorbidity. So if any of the 282 Albertans who died of COVID-19 who are over 80 years old did not have a comorbidity they would be included in this tally of 10 deaths.And while the government doesn’t offer categories for those who have died in their 90s and 100s beyond lumping them in the 80+ category, previous announcements from chief medical officer Deena Hinshaw have confirmed that there have been deaths in this cohort.

What does this tell us? For one, that there are a number of persons out there who are facing multiple serious health challenges and that they are particularly vulnerable to dying from COVID-19.

Their lives matter and we need to think of ways to better serve them.

The flip-side of this is that it also tells us how very few people who are not suffering from a previous medical condition have actually died of COVID-19.

“If you’re under 60 years of age and don’t have a medical condition your chances of having a serious outcome is way less than 1%,” Dr. Robert Sargeant, who attends to COVID-19 patients at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, told me in a recent interview.

“This continues to be a deadly virus for elderly people with medical conditions who live in nursing homes,” Sargeant added.Sargeant says this all suggests — and other doctors I’ve interviewed in recent weeks say likewise — that we need to increase our efforts in protecting the most vulnerable while easing up on restrictions we’ve placed on low-risk groups, particularly children.The Alberta government should be commended for making the comorbidity data available in a way that’s so readily accessible to public and media. Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia — to give three examples — do not make their comorbidity reports public.

There is also the chance that some provinces do not even compile this data, as one B.C. health ministry representative observed to me after I requested their comorbidity data.

It’s troubling that the politicians and health officials don’t reference this sort of important data more often. Instead, the likes of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford like to offer alarmist rhetoric about rising case counts across the country. Their theatrical lines get turned into headlines, which frighten Canadians.

What we’re learning more and more though, is that the data tells a much less alarming story.