British Columbia

B.C. reports 13 more people in hospital with COVID-19 as province rolls out fourth dose program

B.C. health officials reported 334 people in hospital with COVID-19 on Tuesday, including 35 in intensive care, as the province recorded 258 new cases.

Hospitalizations rise to 334 from 321

Audience members arrive for a show at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver on March 24. B.C. health officials reported 334 people in hospital with COVID-19 on Tuesday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

B.C. health officials reported 334 people in hospital with COVID-19 on Tuesday, including 35 in intensive care, as the province recorded 258 new cases.

The province says information about recent deaths from COVID-19 will be released on Thursday.

The new numbers represent an increase of 13 COVID-19 patients hospitalized within the last 24 hours, including 1 less patient in the ICU.

Overall hospitalizations, which typically lag behind spikes and dips in new cases, are up by 22 per cent from last Tuesday, when 273 people were in hospital with the disease and down about 31 per cent from a month ago when 484 people were in hospital. 

The number of patients in intensive care is down by about 24 per cent from 46 a week ago and down 49 per cent from a month ago when 69 people were in the ICU.

As of Tuesday, 7.3 per cent of COVID-19 tests in B.C. are coming back positive, according to the province's COVID-19 dashboard. The number had been above 20 per cent though most of January but began to fall in February, along with hospitalizations. It dipped down to 5.6 per cent in March, but has been slowly creeping back up for the past two weeks.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said anything above a five per cent test-positivity rate is an indicator of a more worrying level of transmission.

There are a total of 12 active outbreaks in assisted living, long-term, and acute care facilities.

Acute care outbreaks include:

  • Surrey Memorial Hospital.
  • Burnaby Hospital.
  • Cowichan District Hospital.

As of Tuesday, 90.9 per cent of those five and older in B.C. had received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 87.4 per cent a second dose.

A total of 2.7 million people have received a booster shot to date.

4th dose coming for vulnerable populations

On Tuesday afternoon, health officials announced fourth doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for seniors over 70, long-term care residents, Indigenous people over 55 and people who are considered clinically extremely vulnerable.

The new booster program is aimed at groups at the highest risk of serious infection, who are now coming on six months since their first booster shot (third dose) and who may be experiencing waning immunity.

Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends the "rapid deployment" of a second COVID-19 booster shot for those 80 and older. 

"This is a really important measure for us," Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told reporters.

"We know that the older we are, the sooner the [COVID-19] antibodies will wane. An extra booster dose right now will provide a rapid increase in antibodies ... and will provide that spring protection as we get back to normal activities in the community."

Treating the virus

There are a few options for treating COVID-19 available to patients in B.C., but not everyone who falls sick is eligible to receive them.

As of April 4, two therapeutic medications have been approved for use in patients with mild or moderate symptoms — Sotrovimab and Paxlovid.

Both treatments must be started within five days of developing symptoms, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), and they're only available to those at highest risk of serious infection.

Sotrovimab is what's known as a monoclonal antibody, and it's administered intravenously for a period of an hour in a hospital or clinic. It attaches to part of the SARS‑CoV‑2 virus and prevents it from entering and infecting healthy cells, according to the BCCDC.

Paxlovid is a pill taken orally that combines the antiviral drugs nirmatrelvir and ritonavir. The drug is taken over five days and helps prevent symptoms from worsening.

A much longer list of treatments are available for patients sick enough to be hospitalized, including Dexamethasone, Tocilizumab, Baricitinib, Remdesivir and anticoagulation drugs. Clinical trials for other potential therapies are also underway, according to the BCCDC.

With files from Karin Larsen


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