BC health officials reported 271 people in hospital with COVID-19 on Monday, including 49 in intensive care, as the province recorded eight more deaths from the disease and 506 new cases over the weekend.
The new numbers represent a decrease of 19 COVID-19 patients hospitalized since Friday, including three more patients in the ICU.
Overall hospitalizations, which typically lag behind spikes and dips in new cases, are down by 24.5 per cent from last Monday, when 359 people were in hospital with the disease and down about 60.6 per cent from a month ago when 688 people were in hospital.
The number of patients in intensive care is down by two cases from 51 a week ago and down by 54.6 per cent from a month ago when 108 people were in the ICU.
The provincial death toll from COVID-19 is now 2,974 lives lost out of 354,084 confirmed cases to date.
There are a total of eight active outbreaks in assisted living, long-term, and acute care facilities, with a new outbreak declared at Selkirk Seniors Village in Victoria.
As of Monday, 90.8 per cent of those five and older in BC had received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 87 per cent a second dose.
From March 11 to 17, people who were not fully vaccinated accounted for 16.8 per cent of cases and from March 4 to 17, they accounted for 26.1 per cent of hospitalizations, according to the province.
A total of 2.64 million people have received a booster shot to date.
Another surge may be on horizon
Although COVID-19 is no longer top of mind for many Canadians, experts say there is a chance we’ll see another surge in infections in coming weeks.
There are still more cases and hospitalizations now than at some of the worst points of the pandemic. A recent rise in global COVID-19 cases, the spread of a more contagious Omicron subvariant and a spike in early surveillance signals across Canada has experts increasingly worried.
“As public health measures ease, increased levels of transmission are not unexpected since the SARS-CoV-2 virus is still circulating widely,” Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Friday.
It’s unclear how much the coronavirus is circulating due to a rapid drop in testing, but other metrics such as wastewater data and hospitalizations suggest levels remain high.
“Even though we’re in a much better place now than we were one or two months ago, there’s still a lot of COVID around and there’s still a lot of people in hospital with COVID,” said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases physician at Toronto General Hospital.
“Sadly, this is not over yet.”
Rapid tests for those 30 and older
Free rapid antigen tests are now available at pharmacies for all BC residents 30 years and older, as long as they have a personal health number.
It is another step in the province’s age-based rapid test rollout that began late last month, with more age groups set to be eligible over the coming weeks. The province said that 2.3 million rapid tests have been distributed so far.
Eligible people can locate a pharmacy on this list, and receive a kit with five tests in it, every 28 days.
The province said anyone picking up a box of rapid tests should not have symptoms while doing so. Anyone who is symptomatic is encouraged to seek a test through testing sites.