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Teenager Without Insurance Dies Of Suspected COVID-19 After Being Denied Treatment

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Rachael Funnell

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Rachael Funnell

Writer & Senior Digital Producer

Rachael is a writer and digital content producer at IFLScience with a Zoology degree from the University of Southampton, UK, and a nose for novelty animal stories.

Writer & Senior Digital Producer

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4KClips/Shutterstock

4KClips/Shutterstock

COVID-19 is known to cause a temperature, consistent coughing, and affect those with existing medical conditions and who are of an advanced age the worst. Despite this trend for more advanced disease, as with all disease statistics, there exist some outliers. Across the world, there have been reports of younger patients with no pre-existing conditions who have tragically died from the disease. According to a mayor in California, the first teenager to die in the US from COVID-19 had his care withheld because he didn’t have health insurance. In America, where roughly 8 percent of the population (27.5 million citizens) don’t have health insurance, the news paints a worrying picture for the country that has become the epicenter of the outbreak.

The mayor of Lancaster, California, R. Rex Parris, has been posting daily videos to YouTube as an update series for the people of the city of Lancaster. In a video posted on March 25, he details the sequence of events that led to the death of an otherwise healthy 17-year-old in Los Angeles, one of the wealthiest cities in the world.

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“By now most people will have heard that we lost a 17-year old boy. There’s a lot of rumors going around about how he died, what the circumstances were, so I’d like to clarify a few things,” Parris said in the video. “The Friday before he died, he was healthy. He was socializing with his friends. By Wednesday he was dead.”

Parris details how on Wednesday he had gone to an HMO [health maintenance organization] for urgent care. "He didn't have insurance, so they did not treat him, and sent him to AV Hospital. En route to AV Hospital, he went into cardiac arrest. When he got to AV Hospital, 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.”

AV Hospital is the Antelope Valley hospital in Lancaster, but the name of the HMO clinic that turned the teenager away hasn’t been released. According to the LA County Public Health Department’s website, the city of Los Angeles currently has (at time of writing) 2,136 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 39 associated deaths, but this statistic doesn’t include the teen’s death. According to a statement given on March 25 by Public Health Director Dr Barbara Ferrer, the CDC has been requested to undertake an investigation into the teenager’s death to confirm the cause of death as septic shock from complications with COVID-19.

At the time of writing, the US has 143,055 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 2,490 deaths. Harrowing accounts from frontline staff have painted a picture of the devastation the outbreak is causing on daily life and in hospitals. Insufficient supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) and overwhelming caseloads mean clinicians are overworked and putting their own lives at risk as they’re forced to reuse N95 masks.

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The mayor ends his video by imploring his viewers to keep on top of their symptoms and remain vigilant with social distancing practices. “We’ve learned that once you go into respiratory issues, you have trouble breathing, you're short of breath and you have a fever, that is the time to get medical treatment without delay," Parris says.

"To me it’s fabulous that everybody is just coming together to get the job done, everybody is doing their job, and I’m hoping that you are too.”

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