Quebec doctor dies from COVID-19

Horacio Arruda, Quebec director of National Public Health, ponders a questions when asked about the death of a colleague doctor. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot) (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

A public health specialist who worked on Montreal's South Shore is the first doctor in Quebec to have died of complications from COVID-19, officials said Thursday.

Dr. Huy Hao Dao, 44, worked at the public health authority for the Montérégie region and was also a professor in the department of community health sciences at the University of Sherbrooke in Longueuil, Que.

Between 2016 and 2017, Dao worked for Quebec's public health institute (INSPQ), which is leading the fight against the spread of the coronavirus.

Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec's public health director, confirmed the death at the province's daily briefing on the pandemic Thursday. Without identifying Dao by name, Arruda said the doctor had not been in contact with patients.

"This health-care worker did not work in hospital or long-term care facilities — he got the disease somewhere else," Arruda said.

The source of the infection, as with all coronavirus fatalities in Quebec, will be investigated, he said.

Arruda said if nothing else, the death should serve as a reminder that "the virus can hit anywhere."

"It tells us we are all vulnerable, and it's important to respect the rules," he said.

With the government hinting at the possibility of easing confinement rules in the coming weeks, Arruda said it's important that people continue to respect directives on physical distancing around those "who could be asymptomatic."

Arruda offered his condolences.

"When I talk about numbers of people dying, I know the drama that is going on in each family, for colleagues and loved ones," he said.

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) also expressed its "deepest condolences" to Dao's friends, colleagues and loved ones.

"The medical community is mourning the loss of one our own, while also acknowledging all those who have passed away across the country and around the world," said CMA president Dr. Sandy Buchman in a statement.

Dao is thought to be among the youngest of the 630 known victims of COVID-19 in Quebec.

As of Wednesday, Quebec public health said only three Quebecers under the age of 50 had died of COVID-19.