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B.C. reaches all-time high of 534 patients in hospital with COVID-19

There are a record 534 patients in hospital with COVID-19 across British Columbia, the province announced Thursday.

Of those, 102 patients are in intensive care.

The total number of infectious patients tops the previous high of 515 recorded back in April, at the height of the third wave, though it's unclear whether there are differences in the severity of illness now that Omicron is the dominant variant.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry is expected to provide a more detailed picture of hospitalization numbers during a modelling presentation on Friday.

Last week, Henry acknowledged there have been challenges across the country in separating severe cases requiring hospital care from incidental infections, and that the numbers provided are not a perfect measurement.

"We're in the process right now of trying to tease through what's the best measure for us to understand the impact of Omicron on the severity of illness and on hospitalizations," she said at the time.

Hospitalizations have come into greater focus since B.C.'s testing capacity became overwhelmed late last year, in the midst of unprecedented transmission. Because healthy people with mild symptoms are being told to self-isolate and forego testing, daily case numbers are not currently considered a reliable measure of the state of the pandemic in the province.

The Ministry of Health announced 2,554 cases on Thursday, including six epidemiologically linked infections.

Deaths related to COVID-19 have also been increasing. The province announced seven coronavirus-related fatalities on Thursday, bringing the seven-day average up to 4.57 per day.

The average had dropped to 1.29 per day by the end of December, and remained there for several days, but has been increasing steadily over the last week. It's still well below the all-time high of 19 deaths per day recorded in December 2020, before most of the province was vaccinated.

While Omicron has caused many breakthrough infections, Henry said people who are fully immunized against COVID-19 appear to experience milder symptoms.

"One of the things that is becoming very, very clear is that this strain of the virus is absolutely mostly mild in people who have the protection that vaccination offers," Henry said Tuesday. "But if you are unvaccinated, you don't have that protection, and your personal risk has gone up dramatically in some communities."

So far, 88.9 per cent of B.C. residents age five and older have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and 83.3 per cent have received two. Just over 31 per cent of adults have also had a booster shot.

Earlier on Thursday, the province announced a shortened interval for pregnant people waiting to receive their booster. Adults who are pregnant can now get their third dose eight weeks after their second, something many had been pushing for, both because pregnancy puts people at higher risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes and because vaccine protection can be transferred to babies before they are born.

The Ministry of Health also announced five more outbreaks in health-care facilities, at Lakeview Lodge, Hamlets in Vernon, Brocklehurst Gemstone, Dufferin Place and Beacon Hill Villa.

Another at Aberdeen Hospital has been declared over, leaving 53 active outbreaks across the system. As recently as Dec. 22, there were zero. Top Stories

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