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Alberta has reversed an earlier announcement that a 14-year-old died from COVID-19 and will change how it reports future COVID-related deaths of minors.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical health officer, said initial information on the teen’s death changed upon review and showed that COVID-19 was not the cause.

She said the province’s policy on reporting deaths is to balance the timely release of information with accuracy.

“Sometimes, though, as in the case reported on Tuesday, the initial information provided to us changed after a review,” Hinshaw said Thursday.

“While the initial report of the death of the 14-year-old included COVID as a secondary cause, we have now received additional information that indicates COVID was not a cause of death.”

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Given the emotional nature of such cases, Hinshaw said COVID-19 deaths of those under 18 will no longer be reported until a thorough review process is completed.

“This incident has caused suffering for many and I apologize for this,” she said. “We will prioritize accuracy over timeliness in these cases.”

Following Hinshaw’s COVID-19 update Tuesday, she was accused by some of diminishing the teen’s death by noting the patient had underlying medical conditions.

Hinshaw said the goal is to provide information to help the public fully understand the nature of COVID-19.

She reported 916 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, along with 30 more deaths. There were 13,423 active cases in the province.

Dr. Verna Yiu, CEO of Alberta Health Services, said the number of hospitalizations and intensive care patients continued to drop slightly but that pressure on the hospital system remained high.

There were just over 1,000 patients in hospital with COVID-19. There were 282 patients in ICUs, most with the illness. Alberta normally has 173 critical care beds but scrambled to create more than double the number of ad hoc spaces.

ICU capacity was estimated at 76 per cent, down from 90 per cent a month ago.

“We’re grateful that the numbers appear to be falling but we know that this trend can be reversed easily, especially if we become complacent,” said Yiu.

“And we remain uncertain as to the potential impact from the Thanksgiving long weekend.”

Alberta has had to cancel thousands of non-urgent surgeries to accommodate the surge of COVID-19 patients.

Yiu said they are slowly working through the backlog as pressure on intensive care spaces eases. But she said there is no timeline yet for when surgical schedules might return to normal.

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