Coronavirus: Teenage boy whose death was linked to COVID-19 'turned away from urgent care for not having insurance'

Chris Riotta
UK intensive care units are preparing for a surge in coronavirus cases in coming weeks: EPA

Updated: A 17-year-old whose death was initially linked to the novel coronavirus despite not having any previously reported health conditions was denied treatment at a California medical facility over his lack of insurance, according to the mayor.

R Rex Parris, the mayor of Lancaster, California, confirmed the teen’s death in a video posted to YouTube on Wednesday, in which he warned residents to take the global pandemic seriously and practice self-isolation and social distancing measures.

“The Friday before he died, he was healthy,” the mayor said about the teenager. “By Wednesday, he was dead.”

The mayor said the teen “didn’t have insurance, so they did not treat him” when he arrived at an urgent care facility in the area. The medical staff then told the child to go to a local public hospital.

“En route to AV Hospital, he went into cardiac arrest,” the mayor said. “They were able to revive him and keep him alive for about six hours. But by the time he got there, it was too late.”

The teen’s death comes amid a wave of reports about young victims suffering deadly symptoms from Covid-19, defying previous assumptions that the novel virus was only fatal for some older patients and people with severe underlying conditions.

Another teen in Louisiana was reported to have passed away this after contracting the coronavirus, as well as a 21-year-old woman in the UK who also had no underlying health issues.

However, Los Angeles’ County Department of Public Health later said the teen’s death was taken off a list of deaths associated with Covid-19 in the area. The department said the CDC would complete an investigation into the teen’s death. It remained unclear what symptoms he may have been experiencing prior to his death.

As health officials warned the country’s hospital system was already reaching capacity, the US confirmed at least 85,000 cases of the coronavirus by Friday. The death toll has meanwhile risen to nearly 1,300, with those figures likely to continue soaring in the coming days.

New York has seen the vast majority of confirmed cases, with nearly 40,000 in total as the state managed to distribute a significant amount of testing kits despite challenges the federal government had procuring test to send to states across the country.

Doctors and nurses on the front lines of the unfolding crisis previously told The Independent the virus was impacting young people the same way it was older patients in some cases.

One resident physician from Mount Sinai in New York City issued a stark warning during a Thursday interview.

“Relatively young people — age 30 through 50 — often male, with little to no known past medical history are getting sick from this virus, getting intubated, [and] dying,” they said. “The principles of social distancing are not solely for protecting your grandparents.”

Another New York-area nurse said: “What I really want the public to know is that the old and sick are not the only ones who are getting severely ill and dying from this virus. Both of my patients I took care of over the weekend were in their 30’s. Both with no known past medical history.”

UPDATE (08.04.20) Following publication of this article, The Los Angeles Department of Health has removed the teen’s name from an official registry of those who have died of the novel coronavirus. Local officials have continued to assert that he was denied treatment at an urgent care facility due to a lack of insurance prior to his death, however this claim has not been proven. The mayor has since confirmed in a statement that the teen's family did have health insurance. We are happy to place this development in the story on record.


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