A child under the age of 10 has died from COVID-19 in Ontario, a local health official said Friday, calling the loss a reminder of the virus' severity.
The top doctor in Waterloo Region said the child had underlying health conditions and had been hospitalized before their death.
"This is a rare, tragic circumstance and a devastating reminder of the serious nature of this virus," Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang said during a pandemic briefing.
There were no related exposures in school or child care settings, Wang added.
She declined to share more specific details about the child's case or identity, citing privacy concerns for the local family.
Wang encouraged people to get immunized against COVID-19 to help protect the unvaccinated, including young children under 12 who currently aren't eligible to get the shots.
"I'm really asking our community to do what they can to protect one another," she said.
"The best way to do that is to get vaccinated if you're eligible and to also continue to practice public health precautions even if you are vaccinated, because that also helps stall the spread."
Ontario Premier Doug Ford offered his condolences to the family on Friday, calling the news "absolutely gut-wrenching."
"My prayers are with the family at this excruciatingly difficult time," he said in a statement on Twitter.
"This virus knows no bounds. It's why we need every eligible Ontarian to get vaccinated — to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and those who can't yet get vaccinated against COVID-19."
Health Minister Christine Elliott also expressed her sympathies.
"This is a truly tragic situation and not only is it a heartbreaking loss for the community, it's also a devastating reminder of the serious consequences of COVID," she said during an announcement in Tweed, Ont.
The vast majority of COVID-19 deaths in Canada have occurred in older adults, but children and teenagers have also lost their lives to the virus during the pandemic.
Public Health Ontario listed five virus deaths among people aged 19 and younger as of Friday, although it was unclear if the child's death in Waterloo Region was among those.
The provincial Ministry of Health said three virus-related deaths had been reported in children under 10 during the pandemic, including the death announced Friday, but did not provide more specific ages.
"We send our deepest condolences to their families," spokesman Bill Campbell said in a statement.
National data as of Friday listed 15 deaths among people between the ages of 0 and 19, representing about 0.1 per cent of all COVID-19 deaths in Canada.
Ontario reported 795 COVID-19 cases and five more deaths from the virus on Friday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 17, 2021.
Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press