British Columbia

More young people landing in ICU with COVID-19, B.C. health officials say, as 1,068 new cases confirmed

Another 1,068 new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in B.C. and three more people have died of the disease, health officials announced Tuesday, as they warned that younger patients are now landing in intensive care.

328 people are now in hospital, including 96 who are in intensive care

A health-care worker cares for a COVID-19 patient in the ICU who is intubated and on a ventilator on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Another 1,068 new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in B.C. and three more people have died of the disease, health officials announced Tuesday, as they warned that younger patients are now landing in intensive care.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the number of patients in hospital with the novel coronavirus has risen to 328, including 96 who are in critical care. Of those in hospital, 63 have confirmed infections with faster-spreading variants of concern, Henry said.

The province has confirmed another 207 cases of these variants of concern, all but one of which are in the Vancouver Coastal Health region. To date, the province has seen 3,766 cases of these variants, including 266 cases that are still active.

Henry said much of the growing transmission that B.C. has seen in recent weeks can be linked to younger patients, who are increasingly ending up in intensive care. Often, that might mean younger people living in shared housing at a ski hill, working in restaurants or retail, and then gathering socially, passing the virus from one setting to the next.

"Unnecessary travel and social gatherings are fuelling the fire for the variants of concern," Henry said.

Most of the variant cases that B.C. has seen are still the B117 variant first reported in the U.K., and Henry said this strain appears to have the "competitive advantage" in this province. The major concern, she said, is whether the vaccines are still effective against this variant, and so far they seem to be working.

Henry said she expects the province to catch up to Ontario in terms of the proportion of COVID-19 cases from the B117 variant. Currently, B117 accounts for about a third of B.C.'s cases, while the strain represents about 60 per cent of Ontario's cases, but Henry expects B.C. to match that figure in about a month.

Median age for variant infections is 35: minister

There have also been growing numbers of cases involving the P1 variant first identified in Brazil, with 877 confirmed cases, including clusters in Whistler and the Lower Mainlaind.

"The virus is adapting and is taking advantage wherever it can, and it isn't fair," Henry said.

However, she said she is not aware of any cases of the P1 variant connected to the ongoing outbreak among Vancouver Canucks players.

According to Health Minister Adrian Dix, the median age for people infected with the P1 variant is 30, and it's 35 for all variants of concern.

B.C. is currently screening about 90 per cent of confirmed cases for variants of concern, according to Henry.

Over the last two weeks, public health officials have noticed a spike in the number of contacts connected with every new case, she said.

She, once again, called on everyone to follow public health orders that ban all indoor social gatherings and urged people not to travel for non-essential reasons, but did not announce any new restrictions and did not directly answer questions about whether stricter measures might be on the way.

There are now 8,671 active cases of the virus in B.C., and 14,118 people under active monitoring by public health because of exposure to known cases — the highest number since the pandemic began.

To date, 1,489 people have died of COVID-19 in B.C. out of 105,988 confirmed cases. 

There have been no new outbreaks reported, and there are currently three active outbreaks in long-term care and assisted living and nine in hospitals.

So far, 912,056 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, including 87,474 second doses.

On Tuesday morning, B.C.'s online registration system for COVID-19 vaccine appointments opened to eligible adults. People who are 71 and older — those born in 1950 or earlier — and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable are now able to register online to book their appointment, as are Indigenous people who are 18 and older.

More than 160,000 people have already registered for a vaccine, according to Health Minister Adrian Dix.

With files from Roshini Nair and The Canadian Press

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