British Columbia

B.C. passes 4,000 COVID-19-related deaths as hospitalizations dip slightly

British Columbia marked a grim milestone this week as the total number of people who have died due to COVID-19 passed 4,000, according to the latest provincial figures.

Province reports 366 people in hospital with the virus this week and 22 in critical care

With more people conducting their own COVID-19 testIng, B.C. says it's hard to get a handle on actual case numbers. However, test positivity rates and hospitalizations continue to decline. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

British Columbia marked a grim milestone this week as the total number of people who have died due to COVID-19 passed 4,000, according to the latest provincial figures.

On Thursday, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control shared its latest COVID-19 data, which showed 366 people in hospital — a decrease of about seven per cent — and 22 people in critical care, the same number as last week.

It also reported 24 more deaths due to the disease, bringing the total to 4,037. Last week, the total number was reported as 3,995.

The government's weekly numbers, which it says are preliminary, are often changed retroactively due to delays in the count and the new way the province measures weekly cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

Deaths are now calculated based on whether they occurred within 30 days of a positive COVID-19 test, whether or not the coronavirus has been confirmed as an underlying cause of death.

The numbers released Thursday are part of an approach from B.C. health officials that began in April, in which they moved to weekly reporting of COVID-19 numbers and changed how certain metrics are calculated.

There were 877 new cases reported as of Aug. 13, a decrease of about two per cent, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in B.C. to date to 381,049.

The province says it likely underestimates actual case numbers as most people are testing themselves, and there are fewer lab-reported tests.

Across the province, test positivity rates saw another slight decrease to 9.1 per cent for the week ending Aug. 13, down one per cent from the week before.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said anything above a five per cent test-positivity rate is a general indicator of ongoing community transmission.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control says while there continues to be week-to-week variability, SARS-CoV-2 viral loads in Metro Vancouver wastewater generally continue to decrease from recent peaks at the end of June and early July.

UBC researchers identify 'weak spot' in COVID-19 variants

Researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) have discovered what they describe as a "weak spot" in all of the major variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 — potentially opening the door for new treatments.

In a peer-reviewed study published Thursday, the research team said it found a largely consistent soft spot — like a dent in the virus's spike protein armour — that has survived the coronavirus's mutations to date.

They determined that a fragment of a certain antibody could "effectively neutralize" all the variants to some degree by exploiting this vulnerability.

The scientists said they hope to use the new information to design antibodies capable of taking advantage of the weak spot in all different variants and mutations of the COVID-19 virus — a so-called "master key" that could help prevent serious infection.