British Columbia

B.C.'s weekly COVID-19 reports seem to indicate a drop in hospitalizations

Fifty-nine more people died in B.C. last week after testing positive for COVID-19, while the number of patients in hospital with the disease appears to have fallen, according to the province’s latest reports on the pandemic.

Numbers provided by province are preliminary, making it difficult to draw definitive conclusions on trends

Nurse Gary Wong prepares medicine in the intensive care unit (ICU) at the Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, B.C., on March 31, 2022. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Fifty-nine more people died in B.C. last week after testing positive for COVID-19, while the number of patients in hospital with the disease appears to have fallen, according to the province's latest reports on the pandemic.

As of Thursday, 540 people are in hospital with the novel coronavirus, including 49 in intensive care, according to the B.C. COVID-19 dashboard.

That's a decrease of nine per cent in overall hospitalizations from last Thursday, when the province reported 596 people in hospital. The number of patients in ICU is also down by about nine per cent from 54 a week ago.

However, all of the numbers provided by the province are preliminary, and it's difficult to draw any definitive conclusions on trends. Under B.C.'s current system for reporting COVID-19 data, numbers that are released for any given week will be retroactively adjusted and often change significantly by the time the next reports are released.

The numbers released Thursday are part of a relatively recent change in approach from B.C. health officials, both in the move to weekly reporting and in how certain metrics are calculated.

Much of the data from the province is in a weekly report from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, which includes cases, hospital admissions and deaths — although all of those numbers are at least five days old.

Between May 8 and 14, the province is reporting 59 deaths. However, that number is being reported in a much different way from in the past, marking all deaths in anyone who tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 30 days, whether or not the disease has been confirmed as a contributing factor.

Not only does that mean it's impossible to tell how many of those 59 deaths were actually caused by COVID-19, it also means that people who died from the illness more than 30 days after testing positive are excluded from that data. 

The number of deaths recorded between May 8 and 14 is also likely to change significantly by next week. 

Last week, the BCCDC's weekly report suggested that 59 people had died between May 1 and 7. The most recent report says 84 people died in that time period — a spike of 42 per cent.

This week's BCCDC report includes 1,645 new cases of COVID-19 reported between May 8 and 14, based solely on lab-reported results, for a total of 369,202 cases to date. 

That's a decline of about 17 per cent from the 1,985 recorded the previous week, according to the province's retroactively adjusted data. 

However, because PCR testing is now quite limited, weekly case counts are understood to underestimate the true number of people with COVID-19 in B.C.

Severe outcomes more common among the unvaccinated

Test positivity rates are down slightly, hitting 9.7 per cent provincewide on May 14, compared to 10.6 per cent the previous week. Positivity rates range from as high as 16.4 per cent on Vancouver Island to as low as 7.1 per cent in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, according to the dashboard.

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.

A total of 334 people were admitted to hospital with COVID-19 between May 8 and 14, according to the BCCDC's preliminary numbers.

The BCCDC's regional surveillance dashboard shows that over the last month, unvaccinated people were about twice as likely to end up in hospital with COVID-19 than those with three doses, three times more likely to require critical care, and about 29 per cent more likely to die.

Meanwhile, wastewater testing at five different treatment plants representing 50 per cent of B.C.'s population shows that as of May 14, viral loads were increasing at three testing sites and decreasing at the remaining two, according to the BCCDC's weekly situation report.

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