When it was announced a 14-year-old boy had succumbed to COVID-19 in Alberta, the tone from Dr. Deena Hinshaw was somber. The mainstream media dutifully reported the death of a child and how this means the virus clearly threatens us all, not just the old and vulnerable.
The response from COVID-19 lockdown proponents and the NDP was morbidly welcoming, in a sense. None of them would celebrate the death of a child, but they could not contain their excitement they now had evidence to indicate that COVID-19 was deadly to children. Their moment of glory was short-lived.
Simone Spitzer is the older sister of the child who passed away. She was horrified her brother’s death was being used as a political football and she took to Facebook to call it out. Spitzer exposed her brother Nathanael had been in the hospital for months and had passed away from terminal brain cancer, not COVID-19, as had been reported by government and media alike.
Spitzer’s post went viral on social media, but remained entirely ignored by the mainstream media. When the Western Standard began reporting on the AHS misrepresentation of the cause of Nathanael’s death, Hinshaw was forced to apologize and retract the statement.
The apologies, tweet deletions, and retractions then began to come in fast. NDP leader Rachel Notley had ghoulishly used Nathanael’s death as a hammer with which to attack the UCP. Notley had even attacked AHS for their daring to have mentioned “other complicating factors” when they announced the death. She dismissed those “other complicating factors” as an excuse from the UCP as a way of cleaning the blood off of their hands. She wanted to make it sound as if a perfectly healthy child had been killed by COVID-19, and Jason Kenney was directly responsible. Notley deleted her tweets and apologized to the Spitzer family, but the damage has been done.
As we near the two-year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic, we can’t pretend any longer we don’t know much about the virus. We should recognize and be thankful healthy children are almost entirely immune to the effects of COVID-19. While kids have tested positive for the virus leading to virtual evacuations of schools, they usually demonstrate no symptoms and suffer no ill effects. Rarer still are healthy children suffering severe effects.
Since the beginning of the pandemic — out of hundreds of thousands of Albertans under the age of 19 — only one has been listed as having died of COVID-19. In light of the Spitzer debacle, the cause of that lone death has now become a legitimate question of the government.
We have to thank the Spitzer family for speaking up in this time of tragedy and mourning to call this out. We should let them grieve in peace now, but media must also pick up and carry on with the issue this brave family has exposed. We can’t trust AHS’s numbers when it comes to COVID-19 death statistics.
How many times has this happened?
Almost 3,000 deaths in Alberta have been attributed to COVID-19 since the pandemic began. With a population of 4.6 million and during nearly two years, that is a long way from the sort of numbers the Spanish Flu posted, though our governments are acting as if today’s pandemic is just as lethal. Now we have to ask ourselves: how many of those 3,000 deaths were actually caused primarily by COVID-19?
We do know 86% of the COVID-19 deaths in Alberta had comorbidities. That statistic needs some more detail filled in if we are to interpret the data correctly. Diabetes, obesity, and asthma are serious comorbidities, but they’re also manageable conditions. COVID surely robbed people of years of life despite their having serious conditions already. We want to prevent this as much as possible of course. What we need to figure out is how many of the people who died of COVID-19 were going to die at approximately that time anyway.
How many fatalities that had been attributed to COVID-19 were cases such as Nathanael’s, where he was about to pass away regardless of a positive COVID-19 test? How many cancer patients, people with heart conditions, or pending renal failure died and were added to the list of COVID-19 deaths, despite the virus actually being a secondary or even tertiary contributor to the person’s death?
The average age of a person dying from COVID-19 has dropped from 82 years, to 79 years. This is not a disease that is prone to taking people long before their time in most cases.
We need accurate numbers as we model government responses to the pandemic. We have set aside critical rights under the Charter and have justified this based on the risk the pandemic presents to the general public. Every restriction comes with costs – both social and fiscal. We need to do a cost-benefit analysis when making policies, and we can’t do it accurately if we are not getting truthful numbers.
We have to get realistic about who’s at risk from COVID-19, as well. The fearmongering with regards to risks presented to children is reprehensible. Not every disease puts everybody at risk equally, and we can’t properly model policies to battle the disease if we don’t use accurate facts. When I finished high school at the end of the 1980s, we were all taught HIV was going to spread rapidly throughout all communities and that we would all be losing loved ones to the disease. In reality, HIV remained contained almost exclusively among the gay male and IV drug-using communities.
HIV is now considered a manageable condition and its spread is well under control. How many more could have been saved had we targeted the truly vulnerable communities rather than pretending for years the virus put everybody at risk?
There are likely a not an insignificant number of cases of mislabeled COVID-19 deaths out there. Not every family is as brave as the Spitzer’s have been and they can’t be blamed. Upon losing a loved one, nobody is eager to jump into a political hornet’s nest. Alberta needs to do a full audit of the fatalities that have been attributed to COVID-19 so far. We can release a great deal of the medical details without compromising the privacy of the victims and their families.
We already have enough distrust of the government and its motivations in this pandemic. True and full transparency in the fatality statistics will help regain some of that trust. We can then start modeling our policy responses to the pandemic based on the real risks, rather than what clearly appear to be exaggerated ones.
Cory Morgan is the Alberta Political Columnist for the Western Standard and Host of the Cory Morgan Show