The first person from northern Alberta to die of COVID-19 — a man in his 30s from Big Lakes County, Alta. — is being remembered as a loving husband and father.
Shawn Auger was among five Albertans to die of COVID-19 in the province on Monday. He is the province’s youngest victim of the disease to date.
The five deaths were announced by Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, who called it “one of the hardest days yet” as the number of confirmed cases in Alberta reached a sobering 690.
“Each death is a tragedy, and this many in one day is heartbreaking,” Hinshaw said Monday during a news conference in Edmonton.
“Each of these individuals had a life that mattered and people who loved them.”
A statement identifying Auger as a victim was issued later Monday on Facebook by Big Lakes County, a municipal district about 300 kilometres northwest of Edmonton that sits on the western side of the Lesser Slave Lake.
It urged community members to get support during their grief.
“Big Lakes County is deeply saddened by the news of our first COVID-19 death,” the statement said.
“Council and staff would like to offer their deepest condolences to Shawn Auger’s family and friends. Our thoughts and prayers are with you, as well as everyone in the community of Grouard.
“We are a close-knit community, and this news will be hard for everyone.”
Auger was a government youth worker at the Youth Assessment Centre in High Prairie, about 370 kilometres northwest of Edmonton. He was also heavily involved in the community as a youth hockey coach.
He was married and has three children.
A statement from the Valleyview Jets hockey club said Auger had been diagnosed on March 13.
The team is asking people to place hockey sticks on their porches as a sign of solidarity with Auger’s friends and family.
“Recently we lost a young man from High Prairie to COVID-19, he was fighting since first being tested positive on March 13. Today he lost his battle.
“Let’s put our sticks out in honour of Shawn and his hard, short battle. He left behind a wife and three teenage hockey players. RIP Shawn.”
Alberta has now recorded eight deaths from COVID-19. The province reported 29 new cases on Monday, which came on top of 119 reported over the weekend.
Up to 65 cases in the province are thought to have involved community transmission. Ninety-four people are listed as having recovered from the illness.
The five people who died Monday included a woman in her 70s from the Calgary zone, a woman in her 50s from the Calgary zone and two men in their 80s from the Edmonton zone.
“Although these individuals had risk factors like older age or chronic medical conditions, their lives mattered as much as any of ours,” Hinshaw said.