An 84-year-old long-term care home resident is the first person in New Brunswick to die of COVID-19.
Daniel Ouellette was a resident at the Manoir de la Vallée in Atholville. He died at 5:10 a.m. Thursday, his son Michel has told Radio-Canada.
"In these difficult times it is with a very very heavy heart that I announce the passing of our father Daniel (Ti-Dan) Ouellette," said Michel Ouellette in a social media post. "He will be missed greatly by all of us."
In an interview with Radio-Canada, Michel Ouellette said his father's condition deteriorated quickly.
He said on Friday the care home asked if they could check on his father, as they were testing people in the home. He said yes, and by Sunday, he got a call from a doctor saying his father was being taken to hospital by ambulance, that he was unconscious and COVID-19 positive.
He said his father was having breathing problems and was on oxygen.
Then complications started in his lung, he said. First one, and then the other the next day.
His father was stable for a day, but then his fever spiked overnight.
"It was hard on him. He never came back," he said in French. "He died of that. It's COVID that took him.
"He couldn't beat it. He tried, but it's a difficult disease."
Ouellette was one of the 15 active cases in the province. Among them were five residents of the facility and four employees.
New Brunswick had a stretch of more than two weeks with no documented cases of COVID-19, allowing officials to ease some restrictions.
But two weeks ago officials detected one new case in a child in Campbellton, which was followed by two more, then spread to the memory unit of the long-term care facility.
Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province's chief medical officer of health, said this is bad news but was not unexpected.
"We knew it was only a matter of time before New Brunswick would suffer its first loss of life," she said.
Russell said even the best-case-scenario projections were not predicting zero deaths. She said there may be more deaths before a vaccine is found.
There are four people in hospital, including one in the intensive care unit, Russell said. She said she can't predict if there will be more deaths within that group.
Officials have linked the outbreak to a medical professional travelling to Quebec and returning to work without self-isolating, but it has yet to be explained what kind of contact-tracing links they made
Premier Blaine Higgs said he received the news of Ouellette's death "with a heavy heart."
"Though we always knew this day would come, we were always hoping for the best that it wouldn't," he said.
Not being there for the final moments
Ouellette said the family wasn't able to step foot inside the hospital when their father was there. He said his father had Alzheimer's, but he could recognize his family and was otherwise healthy.
"it's very hard on the family … That we couldn't go see him say by comfort him hold his hand," he said. "I wouldn't wish this on anyone."
Russell said he had "underlying health conditions" but did not elaborate.
Ouellette said his father received good care and the hospital communicated with the family well.
Ouellette said what happens to his father highlights how important it is to be more careful, especially in care homes. One of the infected employees at the care home was contagious during three work days. Ouellette said that gives him pause.
"I just wish he's the last person to die from that thing," he said of his father.
He said people will remember how good his father was and his great sense of humour.
"A lot of people knew him," he said.
A village in mourning
Atholville Mayor Michel Soucy said his own sister is in the same care home. He said she's been tested and is doing well in a different wing of the facility.
He said the community has lost "a member of our family."
"With this virus and with what we're going through it seems to be a lot harder because we don't have time to grieve," he said. "It's very sad."
He said keeping his distance from his sister has been difficult, but it's necessary to protect the residents
He said his message to the community is "we lost a special person, but we need to continue to fight this virus together," he said.
"I know it's hard to confine, I know it's hard to be away from family members.
"At the end of the day, we'll see some better days."