The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in B.C. has reached its lowest level in more than a year.
The B.C. Centre for Disease Control reported 228 test-positive patients in hospitals across the province as of Thursday. The last time the hospital population was that low was before the BCCDC switched counting methods and began including “incidental” hospitalizations in its weekly total.
The number of patients in B.C. hospitals with COVID-19 on Thursdays since the province started including incidental cases in its count is shown. (CTV)
That switch happened in January 2022. Until this week, the lowest number of patients in hospital on a Thursday since that change had been 255 on March 24, 2022.
“Incidental” COVID-19 hospitalizations are those in which a patient tests positive for the disease after being admitted to hospital for some other reason.
Before January 2022, B.C. reported only hospitalizations in which COVID-19 was believed to be the underlying cause. The last time that count was below 228 was the last day of 2021, when there were 220 patients in hospital under the old counting method.
Health officials have said between 40 and 50 per cent of the patients in hospital with COVID-19 each week are there because of the disease, while the rest are incidental hospitalizations.
Thursday’s update from the BCCDC also included 408 new lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 from the week of Jan. 15 to 21, a substantial decrease from the 560 reported the week before and the lowest total reported since the week of Oct. 30 through Nov. 5.
There were also 104 new hospital admissions – a different metric than the currently hospitalized population – during the week of Jan. 15 to 21, down from 142 initially reported during the preceding week.
Both the weekly case count and new hospital admissions are imperfect measures. The former does not include reinfections or at-home rapid antigen tests, while the latter is always revised higher in the following week’s report.
Because of the limitations of the weekly case count, experts have estimated that B.C.’s official figures for COVID-19 infections are off by roughly 100-fold.
Still, both cases and new hospital admissions are trending downward, and wastewater surveillance – which was recently expanded to include communities in the Interior and on Vancouver Island – has been pointing in the same direction.
This week’s wastewater data has not yet been released, but as of last week’s update, every monitored treatment plant in the province was showing decreased concentrations of the coronavirus.
VACCINATION AND ‘KRAKEN’
In an update last week, federal health officials said it’s unclear whether the XBB.1.5 lineage of SARS-CoV-2 – also known as the “Kraken” variant – will become the dominant strain of COVID-19 in Canada, but it’s proportion of the country’s total infections has been rising.
Citing this risk, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam and federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos echoed advice from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, which continues to urge all Canadians ages five and older to get a booster dose of a bivalent COVID-19 vaccine if they haven’t already.
In B.C., 19,291 doses of vaccine were administered during the week that ended Jan. 21.
While 83 per cent of residents of all ages have received at least two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, significantly fewer have had a booster dose. As of Jan. 22, 56 per cent had had at least three doses, with 32 per cent – mostly those in the older age groups more susceptible to serious illness – had had at least four.
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