Chronic conditions not ‘a death sentence’ when it comes to COVID-19, Hinshaw says

CALGARY — While the majority of patients who have died from COVID-19 have had at least one comorbidity, or chronic condition, Alberta’s top doctor says it doesn’t mean that when a compromised individual catches the disease they could die.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said Thursday that Alberta has always provided details on “severe outcomes” of the virus, including any comorbidities the patients have had.

About two weeks ago, the province introduced more specific information about whether or not comorbidities existed in the deaths currently being reported on a daily basis.

Alberta Health said the additional information, which includes the official date of death, was being released because of requests from the public and the media about those deaths.

However, Hinshaw says just because someone has one of the chronic conditions listed, it does not definitively mean they will die if they contract COVID-19.

“The presence of any chronic condition is not a death sentence and should not be,” she said. “Whether or not an individual who passed away had a chronic condition or not does not mean that that death was any less tragic.”

She also said Alberta has a risk assessment tool designed to help those with chronic conditions to understand their own risk.

“That’s a tool that we have updated over time as more information has become available – both through our own data in Alberta, as well as publications around the world,” she said.

Tom McMillan, assistant director of communications for Alberta Health, tells CTV News that Alberta has the “most in-depth and transparent” reporting of cases in the entire country.

“No other province shares as comprehensive and detailed data as we post online,” he said, adding Alberta Health is constantly looking for ways to provide additional data.

“We were the first province in Canada to offer a comprehensive online dashboard and were also the first to release ongoing data on severe outcomes, cases by age group and gender and other case characteristics.

“We have committed to providing Albertans with as timely and detailed information as possible while still protecting patient confidentiality.”

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All three of the Albertans in their 20s who have died from COVID-19 had comorbidities, but the province has not released any more specific information due to privacy concerns.

Hinshaw also said that comorbidities do “disproportionately impact” those individuals, but every Albertan needs to do their part and follow all health rules to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“It is up to every single one of us – whether or not we have a chronic condition – to be a part of the solution, and to be a part of protecting everyone in our society.”

Provincial data shows about 77 per cent of Alberta’s 575 deaths due to the disease have had at least one comorbidity.

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(Source/Alberta Health Services)

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