British Columbia

COVID numbers jump as B.C. records 753 new cases and identifies 135 cases of the Omicron variant

B.C. health officials announced 753 new cases of COVID-19 and three more deaths on Thursday, as the province's rolling average of new cases continues to increase, fuelled in part by the Omicron variant.

There are 184 people in hospital with the disease, 70 of whom are in intensive care

A COVID-19 vaccination clinic is pictured at the Italian Cultural Centre in Vancouver, British Columbia. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

B.C. health officials announced 753 new cases of COVID-19 and three more deaths on Thursday, as the province's rolling average of new cases continues to increase, fuelled in part by the Omicron variant.

There are now 135 cases of Omicron that have been identified in B.C., up from 44 on Tuesday, according to the province.

In a written statement, the provincial government said there are currently 3,878 active cases of people infected with the novel coronavirus in B.C., the highest number of active cases in a month.

A total of 184 people are in hospital, with 70 in intensive care.

 

Overall hospitalizations, which typically lag behind spikes and dips in new cases, are down by 16.3 per cent from last Thursday, when 220 people were in hospital with the disease and about 51 per cent from a month ago when 376 people were in hospital.

The number of patients in intensive care is down by about 4.1 per cent from 73 a week ago and by 34.5 per cent from last month when 107 people were in the ICU.

 

The provincial death toll from COVID-19 is now 2,396 lives lost out of 224,998 confirmed cases to date.

The regional breakdown of new cases is as follows: 

  • 240 new cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, which has 999 total active cases and 20 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant.
  • 232 new cases in Fraser Health, which has 1,091 total active cases and 38 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant.
  • 137 new cases in Island Health, which has 905 total active cases and 71 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant.
  • 99 new cases in Interior Health, which has 644 total active cases and five confirmed cases of the Omicron variant.
  • 45 new cases in Northern Health, which has 238 total active cases and one confirmed case of the Omicron variant.
  • There are no new cases among people who reside outside of Canada, a group which has one active case, total.

 

There is one active outbreak in assisted living and long-term and acute care. The outbreak at Ponderosa Lodge in Kamloops was declared over.

The province has declared a new outbreak at Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver after five patients tested positive in an acute care unit. The unit has been closed to new admissions, according to Vancouver Coastal Health.

The Fraser Health authority declared an outbreak at Khalsa School Old Yale Road, an elementary school in Surrey, after 23 positive cases were identified there. It is the only publicly-posted school outbreak in the health region.

As of Thursday, 91.6 per cent of those 12 and older in B.C. have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, 88.7 per cent a second dose and 14 per cent a third dose.

When taking into account those five and older, 86.8 per cent of people in B.C. had received a first shot of a COVID-19 vaccine and 82.5 per cent a second dose.

From Dec. 8 to 14, people who were not fully vaccinated accounted for 46.3 per cent of cases and from Dec. 1, they accounted for 70.2 per cent of hospitalizations, according to the province.

So far, over nine million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, including 4.1 million second doses.

New Omicron study under review

A research team from the LKS Faculty of Medicine at the University of Hong Kong has found that, just 24 hours after infection, Omicron multiplied 70 times faster than either the Delta variant or the original SARS-CoV-2 virus within tissue samples of human bronchi — the two large tubes that carry air from your windpipe to your lungs. 

It's a finding that could explain why Omicron seems to transmit faster between humans than previous variants.

However, the same study also found Omicron multiplying 10 times more slowly in lung samples than the original virus.

 

It's the lungs — not the bronchi — that are linked to potentially life-threatening COVID-19 complications such as pneumonia and, in severe cases, acute respiratory distress syndrome . So if these findings hold up in a real-world setting, the team suspects that slower replication in the lungs might mean reduced severity of disease.

The laboratory-based study was shared online as a news release on Wednesday and is currently undergoing peer review for publication.

Travel Restrictions

As case counts of the Omicron COVID-19 variant continues to increase in Canada and around the world, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix is warning residents to "exercise caution."

He said travel within Canada over the holidays should be reconsidered despite the disappointment of possibly not gathering with family and friends.

"The message is, if you're not vaccinated, definitely don't travel," he said.

B.C. supports the federal government's call to advise Canadians against international travel over the holiday season due to the rising threat of the Omicron variant, Dix said Wednesday.

The province is also considering implementing further public health orders on large and small, public-and-private gatherings in an effort to limit the spread of the highly transmissible variant.

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