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Number of COVID-19 patients in B.C. hospitals back over 400 as latest wave grows

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For the first time in more than a month, the number of COVID-19-positive patients in B.C. hospitals has risen above 400.

The latest data from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control shows that there were 426 test-positive patients in hospitals in the province on Thursday, the highest total since May 26.

This graph, compiled by CTV News Vancouver, shows the number of COVID-19 patients in hospital on Thursdays in B.C. since the province switched to a "hospital census" model for counting them in January 2022.

The number of patients receiving critical care declined slightly, however, from 36 last week to 34 on Thursday.

Hospitalization numbers released by the BCCDC include both those who have serious cases of COVID-19 requiring hospital care and those who are hospitalized for other reasons and test positive for the coronavirus incidentally.

Since the province switched to this "hospital census" method of counting, the number of people in hospital with COVID-19 on a Thursday has been as high as 985 and as low as 225.

CASES ALSO RISING

The rising hospital population reflects the growth of the BA.5 subvariant of the Omicron strain of the coronavirus, which has been driving a new wave of infections in B.C. and in much of the world.

The independent B.C. COVID-19 modelling group warns that limited data and the variable amount of immunity in the population from vaccination and previous infection makes it tough to predict the current wave in detail.

The team's latest report estimates cases in the province are doubling every 11 days. 

"BA.5 is rising and it's rising pretty quickly, so we expect to see this next BA.5 wave really take off through July, peaking sometime in August," said group member and UBC biomathematics professor Sarah Otto in an interview with CTV News earlier this week

Hospitalizations are typically a lagging indicator. They typically begin to rise or decline a week or more after caseloads do.

In B.C., however, all of the publicly available data related to infections is nearly a week old. Case data released by the BCCDC on Thursday each week shows the number of new positive tests from the last full epidemiological week, which ended on the preceding Saturday.

The data released Thursday shows the province recorded 973 new cases of COVID-19 during the week of July 3 to 9. That's an increase from the preceding week, when 765 new infections were recorded.

Those totals include only "lab-confirmed, lab-probable and epi-linked" cases, according to the BCCDC. The results of at-home rapid tests – the only type of testing available to the majority of British Columbians with COVID-19 symptoms – are neither collected nor published in B.C. 

VACCINATION DATA

Though cases and hospitalizations are rising, health officials in B.C. have expressed reluctance to bring back any rules or restrictions aimed at curtailing the spread of the disease.

Last week, when asked about the prospect of a return of things like mask mandates and gathering limits, both Health Minister Adrian Dix and acting provincial health officer Dr. Martin Lavoie quickly pivoted to talking about vaccination.

While neither man categorically ruled out future restrictions related to COVID-19, both emphasized the importance of getting all three doses of vaccine that are currently available to all British Columbians ages 12 and older. 

According to the BCCDC, the province administered 44,189 vaccine doses during the week that ended July 9.

That's a significant increase from the previous week, when 31,261 doses were administered, but it's still below the average of more than 50,000 per week that the province was seeing in May and June.

The vast majority of the doses administered in recent weeks have been second boosters, which until recently were only available to non-Indigenous people 70 and older, Indigenous people 55 and older and those living in long-term care facilities.

About 73 per cent of the shots administered from July 3 to 9 – or more than 32,000 total doses – were second boosters.

That number looks likely to increase in the coming weeks, as officials announced late last week that adults who had their first booster shots at least six months ago can call to schedule fourth-dose appointments.

The province still recommends that people wait until September – when a province-wide rollout of "fall boosters" for those ages 12 and up is planned – to get their fourth dose, but those who want to get their fourth dose sooner now can.

Since the change was announced, the number of appointment bookings for second booster shots has tripled, according to the Ministry of Health. 

The province also announced Thursday that it will begin inviting children under age five to get vaccinated next month, after Health Canada announced its approval of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for infants and toddlers.  

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