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B.C. reports 6 COVID-19 deaths, 646 hospitalizations following change to reporting system

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The B.C. government announced six deaths related to COVID-19 on Friday, plus another huge jump in hospitalizations that officials attributed to a new reporting system.

The Ministry of Health said there are now 646 people in hospital with COVID-19 across the province, including 95 in intensive care.

That's a jump of more than 100 patients from the 534 announced Thursday, which was an all-time record for B.C., though the increase is largely due to a switch to what's called "census hospitalization reporting," meaning that every patient in hospital who tests positive for COVID-19 is now included in daily numbers.

The province's previous system excluded some patients, including those who caught COVID-19 in hospital because of an outbreak and people from out of province. The new one includes everyone, including so-called "incidental" infections among people who are hospitalized for other reasons.

Officials also reported 2,275 cases of COVID-19, though the government has started de-emphasizing daily infection numbers, which are believed to represent a fraction of actual transmission in the province. During a modelling presentation Friday morning, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry indicated the numbers could be three or four times higher than reported, due to limits in testing capacity.

There are indications that transmission is decreasing, including test positivity rates and the government's ongoing wastewater screening. Henry said officials believe COVID-19 transmission likely reached its peak last weekend.

"When we look at wastewater surveillance, it's not dependent on who gets tested," Henry said. "It really is a barometer of how much virus is in a community."

Hospitalizations are a lagging indicator, however, and government expects those to continue climbing for weeks.

"That is going to be a challenging few weeks on our hospitals," the provincial health officer cautioned. "The peak is coming."

The number of people dying from complications of COVID-19 has been on the rise as well, causing B.C.'s seven-day average to climb from 1.14 deaths per day up to 4.14 per day in less than two weeks.

Three of the latest coronavirus-related fatalities were recorded in the Fraser Health region, two were in the Interior Health region, and one was in the Island Health region.

Officials are confident the Omicron wave would be much worse if not for widespread vaccination. Friday's modelling indicated the unvaccinated are 12 times more likely to require hospitalization due to COVID-19, 37 times more likely to require intensive care, and 40 times more likely to die than others in their age group who are fully immunized.

So far, 89 per cent of eligible B.C. residents age five and up have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 83.3 per cent have received two. Nearly one-third of adults have also had a booster shot.

The Ministry of Health announced one new COVID-19 outbreak in the province's health-care sector on Friday, at Royal Jubilee Hospital. Eight others have been declared over, leaving 46 active outbreaks in health-care facilities across B.C.

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