British Columbia

Slow decline in COVID-19 hospitalizations in B.C. continues

The number of people in hospital in British Columbia with the COVID-19 virus is down slightly for the second straight week.

Province reports 305 people in hospital with COVID-19 as of Thursday, 22 in critical care

An unmasked man enters a SkyTrain, with a masked person visible in the foreground.
COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to slowly decline in B.C. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control says COVID-19 hospitalizations dipped slightly over the past week, continuing a general downward trend that started in late July.

According to the BCCDC, there are 305 people in hospital with COVID-19, down three per cent from the week before, with 22 people in critical care — a reduction of one.

B.C. health authorities reported 22 new deaths linked to COVID-19, bringing the total number of COVID-related deaths since the beginning of the pandemic to 4,253.

The government says the weekly numbers it shares are preliminary and are often changed retroactively due to delays in the count and a new method the province uses to measure 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 the underlying cause. The centre says it is evaluating the cause of each person's death retroactively to better understand "true COVID-19 mortality.''

Last week, the province reported 16 deaths between Sept. 4 and Sept. 10 but revised that number upwards to 26 on Thursday.

B.C. also reported 637 new COVID-19 cases from Sept. 11 to 17, up 11 per cent from the previous week's numbers.

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

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control says SARS-CoV-2 viral loads in Metro Vancouver wastewater have increased at two plants. Over the past three weeks, there has been a 26 per cent jump in viral loads at the Lulu Island plant covering Richmond and a four per cent increase at the Annacis Island facility covering Fraser North and South.

The BCCDC says the northwest Langley treatment plant has seen SARS-CoV-2 levels drop by 54 per cent, while levels at the Iona Island sewage treatment facility near Vancouver are unchanged.

It says data from the Lion's Gate plant in Vancouver has been more variable than expected, possibly due to "unique features of the plant's operation" and is not being released for the time being.

Fall booster campaign underway

A new bivalent COVID-19 vaccine is now being offered to people who are eligible as part of British Columbia's fall booster program.

As explained by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry earlier this month, the vaccine contains a mixture of spike protein elements from both the original SARS-CoV-2 virus and the Omicron variant, BA.1. It will be offered to adults 18 and older and youth from 12 to 17 at higher risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19.

The Ministry of Health says invitations will be sent out based on people's risk and age, as long as it has been six months since their previous dose. 

Priority groups continue to include people over the age of 60, Indigenous peoples of all ages, people who are clinically extremely vulnerable and people, such as eligible health-care workers, who work with high-risk and vulnerable individuals.

Vancouver Coastal Health said Tuesday that it's recommended those who have recently contracted COVID-19 get their booster dose three to six months after infection.

Those between the ages of five and 17 who do not have underlying health conditions are being offered an mRNA vaccine, such as Pfizer or Moderna. Booster doses are not currently recommended for children between six months and five years old.

At its peak, B.C.'s fall booster program is expected to reach 280,000 people per week, with pharmacies and public health clinics distributing most vaccines.

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