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Number in B.C. hospitals with COVID-19 drops to lowest level in almost 4 months

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The number of people in hospital with COVID-19 in B.C. fell below 200 on Thursday for the first time in nearly four months.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control provided only limited updates on COVID-19 data over the summer, but its last public update showing fewer than 200 people in hospital was in early August, when there were 76 people hospitalized – the lowest reported total in roughly two years

By the start of September, when the BCCDC returned to more-frequent reporting, hospitalizations had more than tripled to 241, and had remained at that level or above it in every update since, until Thursday.

The number of people in B.C. hospitals with COVID-19 in 2023, as reported by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, is shown. (CTV)

The decline in the hospitalized population comes despite indications of rising COVID transmission seen in wastewater surveillance around the province.

The BCCDC's summary of wastewater data for the most recent epidemiological week, which ran from Nov. 12 to 18, describes levels of SARS-CoV-2 – the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 – as showing "variable increases" in the Fraser Health and Interior Health regions, as well as in Prince George.

Levels have "plateaued" in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, while data from Island Health has been largely excluded from consideration for the last several months.

Wastewater surveillance has also detected increases in Influenza A and RSV concentrations at several treatment plants in recent weeks, according to the BCCDC, which says test positivity for RSV has been increasing and is "above pre-pandemic historical averages" so far this year.

For COVID, test positivity continued to decline in the week that ended Nov. 18, falling to 11.6 per cent from 14.3 per cent the preceding week.

Correspondingly, the number of new COVID infections detected through lab-based testing during the week that ended Nov. 18 was also down, with 357 new positive tests, a decrease from 478 the week before.

These trends, like the declining hospitalized population, contrast somewhat with the wastewater surveillance data, which continues to show increases.

Because the vast majority of B.C. residents do not qualify for lab-based testing for COVID-19, the trends in hospitalizations, test positivity and new infections generally reflect only the subset of the population that can access testing, which is generally those at greatest risk of severe illness.

Wastewater data is more reflective of the trend in transmission among the general public, though both sets of information are useful for determining the relative severity of the disease burden in B.C. at any given time. 

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