British Columbia

COVID-19 hospitalizations down in B.C. as province still waiting to see impact from holidays

The number of people in hospital with COVID-19 in British Columbia is down this week, despite the province's health minister expecting an increase in hospitalizations after the holidays. Critical care numbers related to the virus have stayed steady.

The BCCDC says there are 302 people in hospital with the disease, including 25 in critical care

A man wearing a surgical mask stands at a crosswalk in downtown Vancouver.
A man wearing a surgical mask stands at a crosswalk in downtown Vancouver on Dec. 28. An anticipated COVID-19 surge in hospitalizations from over the holidays has yet to materialize. (Justine Boulin/CBC)

COVID-19 hospitalizations across B.C. decreased this week, seven days after the province's health minister said he expected to see a delayed impact of holiday gatherings on the health-care system in early January.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control reported 302 people in hospital with the virus on Thursday, a 15 per cent decrease from the week before. The number of British Columbians with COVID-19 in critical care stayed steady at 25.

As of Jan. 7, the BCCDC says there were 28 new deaths reported among people who had tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 30 days. A total of 4,961 people in British Columbia are believed to have died of causes linked to the virus since the beginning of the pandemic.

The province reported 661 confirmed new cases as of Jan. 7, a 4.6 per cent decrease from the 693 reported the week before.

The number of deaths, hospitalizations and reported cases can be revised retroactively, as the BCCDC and the provincial Health Ministry receive updated data from regional health authorities.

For the week of Dec. 25 to 31, the number of COVID-19-related deaths was retroactively increased from 13 to 37, and for the week of Dec. 18 to 24, reported deaths went from 50 to 59.

Still awaiting holiday surge

Hospitalizations and wastewater testing are a better metric for monitoring the extent of the disease's impact, as actual case numbers are likely higher than what the BCCDC is reporting. Reported cases are based primarily on lab-confirmed PCR tests, which are currently inaccessible to the majority of British Columbians.

According to the BCCDC, wastewater results measuring SARS-CoV-2 levels across Metro Vancouver remain relatively stable.

On Thursday, Jan. 5, Health Minister Adrian Dix said the province expected some "very challenging weeks for our health-care system" and was also keeping a close eye on a new Omicron subvariant known as XBB 1.5.

Dix said more people gathered in person this year around Christmas and New Year's and was worried about the combined effects of respiratory illnesses and COVID-19 on B.C.'s hospitals.

The XBB 1.5 subvariant has been spreading rapidly in the U.S. and was projected by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to soon account for about 45 per cent of COVID-19 cases in that country.

Cases of flu declining

In British Columbia, the BCCDC says in the week leading up to Jan. 7, new hospital admissions, new critical care admissions and deaths were relatively stable or declining, based on information that's been reported so far.

The centre says B.C. saw a steep decline in flu cases over the holiday period, though respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) activity and positivity rates continued to exceed flu numbers through the week of Jan. 1 to 7.

B.C.'s Health Ministry said Minister of Health Adrian Dix and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry will provide an update on the respiratory illness season at 12:30 p.m. PT on Friday.