You Probably Read About an Uninsured Teen Who Died of COVID-19. The Truth Is More Complicated
Last week, a story about a teenager in Lancaster, California, who appeared to have died from COVID-19 after an urgent care clinic denied him treatment because he didn’t have health insurance, ripped through social media. The story was covered by dozens of news outlets, earned thousands of anguished tweets, and quickly became a symbol of Americans’ fears and the failures of the U.S. health care system. But the truth, it turns out, is more complicated. When Los Angeles County Public Health Officials initially announced the 17-year-old’s death on March 24, he was believed to be the first teenager in the country to die from complications of COVID-19. The next day, Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris said in a YouTube video that the teen had tried to go to an urgent care clinic and was turned away because he did not have insurance. But in an interview with TIME nearly a week later, Parris explained that there had been a misunderstanding, fueled in part by a language barrier, since the boy’s father speaks English as a second language. A few days after Parris made the YouTube video, he spoke with the father and learned that the family in fact did have insurance, Parris explained. He posted the update to his Facebook page, where dozens of commenters weighed in thanking the mayor for keeping the city informed. “The boy’s brother called Kaiser and told them the symptoms. They said don’t bring him here, take him to the [Antelope Valley] hospital, ...
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