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Lancet Reg Health Am ; 7: 100130, 2022 Mar.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1561710


BACKGROUND: The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on non-natural manners of death in Ontario is not known. Understanding the indirect consequences of the pandemic and related public health measures (i.e. lockdown) fills a vital need to inform best practice in public health and guide policy decisions. METHODS: The Office of the Chief Coroner and the Ontario Forensic Pathology Service (OCC-OFPS) investigate sudden and unexpected deaths in the province of Ontario. The number of homicides, suicides, and accidental deaths (non-natural deaths=77,655) were extracted from the centralized Coroner's Information System database (total deaths=197,966), across four provincially defined stages of lockdown related to the COVID-19 pandemic (March 17 to December 31, 2020), and crude rates (per 100,000 people) were compared to the previous eleven years. FINDINGS: There was no major change to the rate of homicides during 2020 compared to 2009-2019 (RR 1⋅1, 95% CI 0⋅95-1⋅2; p=0⋅19; estimated annual effect=21 more deaths in 2020). The rate of suicides also did not show an overall major change in 2020 (RR 1⋅02, 95% CI 0⋅96-1⋅1; p=0⋅50; estimated annual effect=27 more deaths in 2020). However, during the first stage of lockdown (Stage 0), there was a decrease in the rate of suicides compared to all combinations of recent years from 2013 onwards (RRs 0⋅82-0⋅86, combined 95% CI 0⋅69-0⋅99; max p=0⋅039; estimated effect of 30 less deaths in Stage 0). There was an excess of over 1,500 accidental drug-related deaths that occurred during 2020 (RR 2⋅5, 95% CI 2⋅4-2⋅7; p<0⋅001). This finding held up to 'interrupted time series' robustness testing, indicating that 2020 had substantially more drug-related deaths, even when accounting for the linear increasing trend over time. Although motor vehicle collision associated fatalities appeared to decrease slightly in 2020 (RR 0⋅89, 95% CI 0⋅81-0⋅96; p=0⋅0039; estimated annual effect of 78 less deaths), we could not conclude any lockdown-associated effect, particularly when compared to 2019 (RR 0⋅26, 95% CI 0⋅75-1⋅1; p=0⋅26). INTERPRETATION: In Ontario, the short-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic did not greatly increase homicide or suicide rates, nor decrease motor vehicle collision fatality rates; however, the longer-term impact of the pandemic remains to be elucidated and ongoing vigilance is warranted in the event that other trends emerge. Accidental drug-related fatalities substantially increased during all stages of the lockdown, marking an urgent need for consideration in policy. These results highlight the vital role of death investigation systems in providing high quality and timely data to inform public health recommendations.

Forensic Sci Int ; 322: 110755, 2021 May.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1152350


Over a year after the initial emergence of the disease, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to strain healthcare systems worldwide. The value of feedback and connection between clinical care, public health, and death investigation systems has never been more clear. To this end, knowledge of the radiologic and histopathologic features of fatal COVID-19 is critical for those working with the living and the dead. Most of the medical descriptions of COVID-19 are either focused on clinical in vivo medical imaging or autopsies performed following an intensive course of treatment over days to weeks prior to death, rather than deaths in the community prior to hospitalization. Here we report the postmortem computed tomography (PMCT) and lung histopathology in five fatal cases of COVID-19 that were subject to medicolegal death investigation. All individuals died in the community without medical treatment, or after a brief terminal admission to hospital. In these cases, the main PMCT findings included: diffuse lung changes including ground glass-type opacifications, a "crazy paving" appearance, variable areas of more dense consolidation, and relatively few areas of spared/less involved lung parenchyma. The unifying histopathology was diffuse alveolar damage in various stages of cellular evolution. In all cases, the pattern of PMCT and the lung histopathology corroborated the diagnosis of COVID-19. We propose the routine use of PMCT as a potential screening tool for the identification of COVID-19 related fatalities in the medicolegal setting where a paucity of historical information may not otherwise permit the identification of this disease prior to autopsy.

COVID-19/diagnosis , Lung/diagnostic imaging , Lung/pathology , Aged , Aged, 80 and over , Autopsy , Community-Acquired Infections/diagnosis , Female , Forensic Pathology/methods , Humans , Immunohistochemistry , Male , Middle Aged , Ontario/epidemiology , SARS-CoV-2 , Tomography, X-Ray Computed