Premier Doug Ford says that the death of a 13-year-old Brampton girl who contracted COVID-19 is “heart-wrenching” and serves as a “devastating reminder of what this virus can do.”

Emily Victoria Viegas died last week. According to a report in the Globe and Mail, Viegas was found unresponsive by her brother after reporting trouble breathing in the days previous.

The newspaper said that her mother had previously tested positive for COVID-19 and was on oxygen in Brampton Civic Hospital at the time.

“My heart absolutely breaks for this family. I can’t imagine the unbearable pain and sorrow they are feeling right now,” Ford said in a statement issued on Monday morning. “It’s heart-wrenching and a devastating reminder of what this virus can do. On behalf of all Ontarians, I’m sending my deepest condolences to everyone who is suffering from the terrible loss of this young life.”

Nearly 8,000 Ontarians have died after contract COVID-19 but only three of those fatalities have occurred in people under the age of 19.

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown told CP24 on Monday morning that Viegas’s father was an essential worker at a factory “who had no choice but to go to work.”

He said that the death of someone so young is “needless” and represents a “dark day for our city.”

“It goes to show the consequences of COVID are real, they are severe. So when we talk about the need to vaccinate essential workers it not some trivial comment; it is about lives that are at stake,” Brown said.

The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board (DPCDSB) said on Sunday that one of their students died, but did not release any further information about their identity or cause of death.

The board said that it is “focusing on supporting staff and students and respecting the privacy of the grieving family.”

Meanwhile, in a statement provided to CP24 on Monday Peel Public Health called the loss of someone so young “uniquely tragic.”

“While we certainly stand with all the families in our Region that have suffered such loss during the pandemic, we acknowledge it is uniquely tragic to lose someone at such a young age,” the statement reads.

Hospital officials insist nobody is being refused treatment amid strain on system

The Globe report suggested that Viegas’s condition had been deteriorating for some time but it said that her father opted to keep her home out of fear that there would be no space for her at Brampton Civic and that she would be sent further away.

During a news conference on Monday, officials with the hospital refused to discuss the case specifically but said that generally speaking there are still resources to treat those who need help.

“Right now, if you are in need of assistance I don't think there are any hospitals that don't have capacity to treat you,” Chief of Emergency Services Dr. Andrew Healey said. “I think that anyone who's experiencing dangerous symptoms associated with COVID-19 that they can't manage at home should make their way to the emergency department. Every hospital has the capacity to do that, no hospital is on EMS diversion to my knowledge, and so if you call 911 you'll be taken to the appropriate facility, as part of an organized healthcare system that has excellent dispatch criteria at the moment.”

Healey said that shortness of breath is an “alarming feature of COVID-19” and that anyone who experiences it should make their way to a hospital immediately. He said that while some hospitals are “dangerously close to not being able to provide care for every individual that presents,” they are not there yet.

‘At the moment I believe that our hospitals will see anyone that comes through their front door, and will do their absolute best to work with their own staff within their own search protocols, and to coordinate with other hospitals in the region to assist in the care of the patients that present to our front door,” he said.