VANCOUVER -- The B.C. government has announced 609 new cases of COVID-19 and six related deaths, along with another increase in coronavirus hospitalizations.

Wednesday's update, provided in a written statement from the Ministry of Health, pushed the province's seven-day average for infections down to 578 cases per day. That average has been gradually decreasing since last Thursday, when it was at 640 cases per day.

Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 patients in hospital has been surging, reaching a five-month high of 390 on Tuesday and increasing further to 422 on Wednesday. That includes 157 patients in intensive care.

Some of that increase appears to be linked to a change in reporting, though officials did not provide much detail on the impact of the switch.

The Ministry of Health said the Interior Health Authority changed the "primary source of COVID-19 hospitalization surveillance data" this week, which caused a one-time increase in patient numbers.

"This change is retrospective to the beginning of the pandemic though primarily affects cases reported since August 2021," the ministry said in its statement. No further details on the nature of the change were given.

Any increase in hospitalizations would be poorly timed this week, after more than 4,000 health-care workers were placed on unpaid leave for failing to receive even a single dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

Those unvaccinated workers represent about three per cent of health-care employees who are under the new mandate.

While they are a small minority in the system, there have been concerns about how their absence will affect staffing levels and morale – though Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry have been quick to note that COVID-19 outbreaks in health-care settings have a serious impact as well.

Across the province, 89.7 per cent of eligible residents have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 84.7 per cent have received both.

Even though the unvaccinated make up fewer than 20 per cent of the provincial population, including those who are too young to be vaccinated, they consistently make up the majority of cases, hospitalizations and patients in ICU.

The Northern Health Authority, which has been trailing other regions in vaccinations, has also regularly been recording the highest number of infections per capita. The latest cases were distributed as follows:

  • Northern Health – 126 cases, a rate of 44.3 per 100,000 population
  • Interior Health – 92 cases, a rate of 11.1 per 100,000 population
  • Fraser Health – 257 cases, a rate of 13.5 per 100,000 population
  • Island Health – 55 cases, a rate of 6.4 per 100,000 population
  • Vancouver Coastal Health – 79 cases, a rate of 6.1 per 100,000 population

Another 700 people have also recovered from COVID-19, leaving the province's active caseload at 4,748, down from 4,829 on Tuesday.