COVID-19-related hospitalizations in BC inched up again on Friday, according to the Ministry of Health.
There are currently 260 test-positive patients in BC hospitals, up from 255 on Thursday. It’s the second time the total has increased in the last three days. Before an uptick on Wednesday, the province’s total hospitalization had declined every day since Feb. 7.
BC’s hospitalization numbers include patients who are admitted to hospital for reasons other than COVID-19 and test positive during routine screening. Health officials have previously estimated that these so-called “incidental” cases account for about 45 per cent of coronavirus-related hospitalizations.
As of Friday, there were 50 people in intensive care units with COVID-19 in BC
The latest update also included two more deaths attributed to the disease, for a total of 2,983 since the pandemic began. The latest deaths happened in the Vancouver Coastal and Northern health authorities.
Friday also saw three more COVID-19 outbreaks declared in the Island Health region, at Amica Douglas House, Acacia Ty Mawr and Sunridge Place Seniors. There are now seven active outbreaks in the provincial health-care system, most of them in long-term care facilities on Vancouver Island.
Declared outbreaks don’t tell the whole story, however. Dozens of residents and staff members at Haro Park in Vancouver have tested positive for COVID-19 in recent weeks, but Vancouver Coastal Health has, so far, opted not to declare an outbreak there.
Similar circumstances were observed at a care home in the Fraser Health region in late January.
The most recent guidance document from the BC Center for Disease Control is dated last week. It says, when it comes to care homes: “An outbreak is described as an unexpected or unusual increase in COVID-19 cases or case severity amongst residents, characterized by transmission within the facility and necessitating additional public health action beyond usual surveillance, case management and baseline infection prevention and control measures.”
It’s unclear why Island Health seems to declare more outbreaks based on that criteria than other health authorities.
Slight increases in hospitalizations and the number of declared outbreaks could be early signs of a sixth wave of the pandemic, which experts have warned is a possibility with most public health measures lifted.
It’s also possible that increases in transmission will be small, and Canada’s top doctor has said that even if cases rise substantially, the country’s high vaccination rates should keep hospitalizations at manageable levels.
In BC, 90.8 per cent of eligible people ages five and older have received at least a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 87.2 per cent have received two doses.
Among adults, 59 per cent have received a third dose, also known as a booster.
Tracking a rise in COVID-19 infections in BC, if one occurs, could be a challenge. The province does not offer PCR tests to most people who have symptoms. Daily case counts include only lab-confirmed tests, and may not be representative of broader transmission in the community.
On Friday, BC announced 218 new cases of the coronavirus, almost exactly on par with the rolling seven-day average of 217.6.
Health officials have also said they plan to stop producing daily updates on case counts and hospitalizations, shifting BC’s reporting of pandemic-related data to a weekly surveillance model, similar to what the province does for influenza and other respiratory illnesses. This change is expected to take effect next month.
With files from CTV News Vancouver’s Penny Daflos