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267 in hospital with COVID-19 as BCCDC returns to biweekly data updates

A sign at the BC Centre for Disease Control is seen in this photo from the BCCDC website. A sign at the BC Centre for Disease Control is seen in this photo from the BCCDC website.

After publishing COVID-19 data just once a month over the summer, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control returned to biweekly updates this week.

The number of people in hospital with the coronavirus on Thursday was 267, a relatively modest 12-per-cent increase from the 241 reported in the last BCCDC update on Sept. 7.

The increase in the hospitalized population in this week's update is much smaller than the more-than-tripling the data showed between the BCCDC's August and September updates.

The number of people in hospital in each BCCDC COVID-19 update in 2023 so far. (CTV)

The BCCDC considers the number of people in hospital with COVID-19 at any given to be an overestimate of the burden of the coronavirus in the provincial health-care system, because it includes both those who were hospitalized because of serious cases of the virus and those who were hospitalized for other reasons and tested positive after admission.

Since the province started including these "incidental" cases in its hospitalization total back in January 2022, the BCCDC has reported as many as 985 people in hospital with COVID-19 in one of its updates, and as few as 76.

That low point came less than two months ago, on Aug. 3 of this year.

The number of people in hospital with COVID-19 as reported by the BCCDC biweekly since January 2022. (CTV)

It should also be noted that – though the BCCDC considers its count of people currently in hospital to be an overestimate of virus severity – data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information showed thousands more hospital discharges for COVID-19 in the province during the 2022-23 fiscal year than the BCCDC reported admissions for the same period.

While the two agencies are measuring different things, the BCCDC did seem to acknowledge that CIHI's numbers are more complete than its own in a statement to CTV News last month.

Regardless of the many caveats that come with all COVID data, the trend in recent months is clear: Transmission has been increasing.

Other BCCDC metrics, such as new hospital admissions and new infection episodes, have shown an increase in the latest update.

There were 178 new hospitalizations from Sept. 10 to 16, the most recent Sunday-to-Saturday "epidemiological week" reported by the BCCDC. That's an increase from 161 during the preceding period, and it's a figure that's likely to be revised upwards in future reports as data become more complete.

Likewise, there were 628 new infection episodes confirmed through lab-based testing during the week of Sept. 10 to 16, up from 425 the week before.

While testing is limited and not meant to capture every new COVID-19 infection that occurs in B.C., the percentage of tests coming back positive has also grown in recent weeks.

The BCCDC reported a test-positivity rate of 20.8 per cent for the week ending Sept. 16, the highest rate seen in more than a year.

Wastewater surveillance – which can be used to approximate transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus not captured by testing – tells a similar story.

As has been the case for the last several weeks, treatment plants in the Lower Mainland saw increasing virus concentrations during recent epidemiological weeks.

Elsewhere in the province, the most recent data is a mixed bag, with increasing concentrations seen in Kelowna, Victoria and the Comox Valley, but declining concentrations in Kamloops, Penticton and Nanaimo. 

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