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B.C. COVID-19 data shows third Omicron wave underway

With B.C.'s independent COVID-19 modelling group predicting that another wave of infections will sweep through the province and peak in August, weekly data released Thursday by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control shows the surge beginning. 

For the first time in two months, the number of coronavirus-positive patients in B.C. hospitals increased this week. There were 369 in hospital, including 36 in critical care, as of Thursday.

This graph shows the number people in hospital with COVID-19 on Thursdays in B.C. since the province switched to a "hospital census" model in January. (CTV)

The BCCDC reports anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 upon admission to hospital as a COVID-related hospitalization, even if the disease is not the primary reason the patient requires hospital care.

Since the province switched to this "hospital census" model for tracking hospitalizations in January, there have been as many as 985 COVID-positive patients on a Thursday and as few as 255.

The incoming wave of infections is the third one to be driven by a variant of the Omicron strain of the virus.

The independent modelling group predicts that the subvariant BA.5 – which is believed to account for the majority of new cases – will fuel the latest rise in infections, though it's unclear how high the wave will crest, or what impact it will have on B.C.'s already strained health-care system. 

The BCCDC's latest report on coronavirus lineages in the province does not split out BA.5, but it did show the proportion of "other" variants – which includes BA.5, BA.4 and some strains of BA.2 – rising. 

The "other" category accounted for roughly half of all coronavirus genomes sequenced in the province as of the week of June 19 to 25.

The BCCDC said BA.5 was increasing the fastest, accounting for about 40 per cent of all cases during the week in question, which ended 10 days ago. 


Hospitalizations are generally a lagging indicator of COVID-19 transmission. They don't typically begin to go up or down until a week or more after the number of infections begins to go up or down.

This effect is offset somewhat in B.C.'s data, however, because the number of patients in hospital is the only figure that the BCCDC releases in real time. All of the other data the centre puts out each week is based on the last completed "epidemiological week."

Thursday's data on infections and wastewater monitoring is from the week of June 26 to July 2, meaning it's five days behind the patients-in-hospital number.

Still, the number of new cases reported for the period was an increase – the first time weekly cases have gone up since the epidemiological week that ended April 30.

The BCCDC reported 765 new lab-confirmed infections from June 26 to July 2, up from 620 the week before. 

Those totals include only "lab-confirmed, lab-probable and epi-linked cases," according to the BCCDC. They do not include the results of at-home rapid tests, which are the only type of testing available to most B.C. residents, meaning the numbers released each week do not capture the total spread of COVID-19 in the province.

Wastewater data from the Lower Mainland can help approximate the trend in infections among people who don't qualify for lab-based testing.

As of July 2, viral loads at four of the five wastewater treatment plants in the Lower Mainland showed increasing trends, with only the Lulu Island plant showing a modest decrease in coronavirus concentrations, according to the BCCDC's weekly "situation report."

At the Lions Gate plant on the North Shore, viral loads increased by 115 per cent week over week, and at the Northwest Langley plant, they've increased by 251 per cent over the last three weeks.


Earlier this week, Health Minister Adrian Dix told reporters at a news conference that the province was preparing for a resurgence of COVID-19 in the fall, and said everyone in B.C. should expect to get a booster dose of vaccine at that time.

Dix is scheduled to hold another news conference with Dr. Penny Ballem on Friday afternoon, at which he will discuss the province's vaccination strategy.

While vaccination has not prevented waves of infections caused by Omicron and its subvariants, it has significantly decreased the risk of severe outcomes from the disease.

BCCDC data shows a person with three or more doses of vaccine is about half as likely as an unvaccinated person the same age to be hospitalized and about one-third as likely to require critical care.  

As cases and hospitalizations in B.C. start to rise again, the number of health-care workers off the job because of illness has also been increasing.

Some 16,400 health workers took at least one day off work during the week of June 20, according to Dix, up from the approximately 15,000 recorded a few weeks prior.

Not all of those days off were caused by COVID-19, but workers in the industry – already facing burnout after more than two years of the pandemic – say increased coronavirus spread puts more stress on the system.

Hospital Employees’ Union co-ordinator of policy and planning Mike Old said health-care workers are facing an “alarming” situation when it comes to COVID-19.

“We’re seeing health-care vacancies due to illness that we haven’t seen since late January,” he said. “Workers are really, really burned out.”

Old said a poll of their members found one in four said their employers don’t backfill for illnesses or other vacancies, and one in three are thinking about leaving health care in the next two years.

“It’s really important that members of our community understand that when they’re protecting themselves against the transmission of COVID, they’re also protecting our health-care system,” he said. “Our health-care workers need all the help they can get.”

Dix said the province is continuing its efforts to shore up the health-care system, while recruiting and training more workers.

Asked if the government would consider bringing back any of its previous COVID-related restrictions in the fall, Dix declined to rule it out.

"No option is ever excluded," he said, adding that officials still recommend mask use indoors.

"I'm the minister of health, I have access to a lot of information about health care; I wear masks in indoor public spaces," Dix said.

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Andrew Weichel and Maria Weisgarber Top Stories

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