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B.C. announces 18 more COVID-19 deaths as hospitalizations fall

A disposable face mask is seen in this file photo from Island Health. (Island Health/Facebook) A disposable face mask is seen in this file photo from Island Health. (Island Health/Facebook)

A day after B.C. reported no new COVID-19-related deaths for the first time in weeks, the province announced 18 on Wednesday.

The latest deaths mean the province has seen 2,725 deaths attributed to the coronavirus since the pandemic began.

Over the last seven days - even with zero deaths reported on Tuesday - B.C. has seen an average of 11.7 COVID-19-related deaths per day.

As of Wednesday, there were 893 COVID-19-positive patients in hospital, a total that includes both those who are sick enough from the coronavirus to require hospitalization and those who were admitted to hospital for other reasons and tested positive incidentally.

Of the total, 143 COVID-19 patients are in intensive care units in B.C.

Both the number of hospitalizations and the number of patients in ICUs declined between Tuesday and Wednesday. The latter dropped only slightly, from 146 to 143.

The total number of hospitalizations dropped dramatically, however. On Tuesday, B.C. reported 986 test-positive patients in hospital.

Every regional health authority in B.C. reported at least two deaths attributed to COVID-19 over the last 24 hours.

Island Health and Vancouver Coastal Health saw five deaths each, followed by Fraser Health with four and Interior Health and Northern Health with two apiece.

Many of those dying in the Omicron wave - as in previous waves - are residents of long-term care homes.

Wednesday's update included one new outbreak of COVID-19 in a health-care setting, while two others were declared over, leaving the province with 54 ongoing outbreaks, most of them in long-term care homes.

Speaking at a news conference on Wednesday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addressed the high numbers of hospitalizations and deaths that B.C. has been seeing in recent weeks.

She stressed that COVID-19 remains "a serious respiratory illness," even as officials see declining transmission and plan to lift some public health restrictions in the coming weeks.

The main reason lifting restrictions is possible, according to Henry, is because of the widespread uptake of COVID-19 vaccination in the province.

"Some people say, you know, Omicron is so transmissible and vaccines are not preventing all of the transmission, which is absolutely true," Henry said. "But it is giving very strong protection against hospitalization and severe illness. I think about this: If we did not have the level of immunity in our province because so many people have the protection from vaccines and Omicron was the first strain out of the gate, we would be in very dire straits."

She went on to explain that the rate of hospitalization in B.C. from Omicron infections has been about a third of what the province was seeing with the Delta variant. That has translated into higher numbers of hospitalizations and deaths, however, because of the sheer amount of transmission that Omicron has caused through its ability to avoid immunity from vaccination or previous infection.

"If we had not had that protection of vaccination, our hospitals would have been flooded," Henry said, attributing lower per-capita rates of hospitalization and death to vaccines.

As of Wednesday, 90.3 per cent of eligible people ages five and older had received at least a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 84.8 per cent had received two doses.

Among those ages 12 and older, 50.6 per cent have received a booster shot.

Wednesday's update included 1,187 new lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19, though case numbers are not considered to be an accurate reflection of transmission in B.C. because testing is discouraged for most people.

For similar reasons, Henry announced Wednesday that the province is no longer going to be reporting active cases or recoveries in its daily updates. It was unclear when that change would begin, however, as both figures were included in Wednesday's statement from the Ministry of Health. Top Stories

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