Funds are now being raised for the funeral of a 13-year-old Brampton girl who is one of the youngest Canadians to die after contracting COVID-19.
Emily Viegas died on April 22, just days after first exhibiting symptoms and five days after testing positive for the virus.
Her father tells the Globe and Mail her symptoms started as a persistent cough, then she had trouble breathing and eventually could not stand on her own. Days later she was rushed to hospital after he family found her unresponsive in her bed.
She was pronounced dead hours later after several attempts to resuscitate her. Doctors said she had pneumonia in addition to COVID-19.
Premier Doug Ford says the loss should serve as a reminder to Ontarians of what the virus is capable of.
“My heart absolutely breaks for this family. I can’t imagine the unbearable pain and sorrow they are feeling right now,” said Ford in a statement. “On behalf of all Ontarians, I’m sending my deepest condolences to everyone who is suffering from the terrible loss of this young life.”
Mayor Patrick Brown tweeted his condolences on Sunday.
“This is beyond heart-wrenching,” said Brown. “As a parent, I am lost for words.”
“Horrifying. We can never underestimate the seriousness of COVID-19 and the variants.”
MPPs observed a moment of silence at Queen’s Park on Monday. The NDP addressed Health Minister Christine Elliott about the tragic death and asked “how many more deaths” there need to be before Brampton gets the support it needs from the provincial government.
“Emily’s death is truly a tragedy,” said Elliott in response. “We all need to remember that we are working as hard as we can to bring vaccinations to as many people as possible.”
Emily lived in an apartment in Brampton with her parents and her brother. Her brother and mother are also sick with the virus and her mother remains in the hospital. Her father has received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
A GoFundMe page was setup shortly after Viegas’s death to help cover her funeral and burial costs and has already quadrupled the initial goal of $10,000.
Gurratan Singh, a provincial NDP representative from Brampton East, said the city was in a pandemic “crisis,” with people dying at an alarming rate. Brampton has lagged in terms of access to vaccines, said Singh, who accused the Ford government of abandoning the city just northwest of Toronto.
In response, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said Brampton had received “significant” assistance.
“There is no suggestion that they’re receiving any less than they’re entitled to,” Elliott told the legislature, where a minute of silence was held Monday.
Adrian Goddard, a friend of Emily’s father who organized the fundraiser, said the money would go to pay funeral and burial costs.
“Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers at this difficult and unfortunate time,” Goddard wrote.
Emily’s father is a well-known local ball hockey referee. The Ontario Ball Hockey Association expressed its sympathies.
“We regret to inform you that Carlos Viegas lost his daughter Emily Victoria Viegas to COVID this past week and she was only 13 years old,” the association said in a tweet.
The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board said it was focusing on supporting staff and students hit by Emily’s death.
Last week, Ontario’s chief coroner Dirk Huyer said more people were dying suddenly at home from COVID-19 without having called for an ambulance. Huyer said it was too soon to explain why that might be happening.
Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer, said on Monday he worried the province could see more deaths among such young people, saying COVID-19 can “impact very quickly.”
Parts of Brampton have been among some of the hardest-hit communities in the entire country throughout the pandemic. The City currently has a test positivity rate of approximately 22 percent, the highest in Ontario.
Severe COVID-19 cases for younger Canadians have been extremely rare. Out of the over 200,000 people under 19 infected with the virus, there have been 142 who have been admitted to the ICU.
As of the latest provincial numbers, there are currently 2,126 people in the hospital with COVID-19 and 851 in the ICU.
With files from The Canadian Press