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Number of patients with COVID-19 in B.C. hospitals nears 2022 low

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The number of people with COVID-19 in B.C. hospitals declined again this week, and the number of patients in critical care set another new low for the year.

As of Thursday, there were 276 test-positive patients in hospitals across the province, down from 325 at this time last week.

This graph shows the number of test-positive COVID-19 patients in B.C. hospitals each Thursday since the province switched to a "hospital census" model for counting hospitalizations in January 2022. (CTV)

The number of people in critical care with the coronavirus dropped to 19, the lowest it's been since August 2021.

Hospitalization numbers in B.C. include both those who have serious enough cases of COVID-19 to require hospital care and those who are hospitalized for other reasons and test positive for COVID-19 incidentally.

Since the province began counting hospitalizations this way in January, Thursday's total of 276 patients in hospital is the second-lowest the province has seen on a Thursday.

CASES AND WASTEWATER

The latest numbers were released alongside data on new infections, hospitalizations and deaths from the last full epidemiological week, which spanned June 5 to 11.

During that period, B.C. confirmed 726 new cases of COVID-19, the lowest weekly total since provincial health officials stopped issuing daily pandemic updates in early April.

It's worth noting, however, that few people with COVID-19 symptoms in the province are eligible for lab-based PCR testing, which is the only type of test counted in the weekly infection count. Cases confirmed through at-home rapid antigen testing are neither tracked nor reported, meaning the true number of new cases recorded in the province each week is unknowable.

Levels of COVID-19 transmission within the general population can be inferred, roughly, through wastewater surveillance in the Lower Mainland.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control's latest "situation report" indicates that, as of June 11, four of the five wastewater treatment plants in Metro Vancouver were seeing decreasing concentrations of the coronavirus, while the fifth had seen "a modest increase."

The plant where viral loads had increased was Lulu Island in Richmond, with the BCCDC reporting a 21 per cent increase over the last two weeks.

The decreases seen at other plants were much larger, and generally spanned longer time frames, according to the report.

  • Annacis Island saw its viral loads decrease by 50 per cent over the last seven weeks
  • Northwest Langley saw an 81 per cent decrease over the last six weeks
  • Lions Gate saw a 54 per cent decrease over the last four weeks
  • And Iona Island saw a 47 per cent decrease over the last two weeks

VACCINATION AND TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS

The ongoing decline in COVID-19 transmission in B.C. comes as federal governments on both sides of the border loosen restrictions on travel.

Last week, the U.S. lifted its requirement that international air travellers provide a negative test taken within a day of their arrival in the country, and Canada announced the suspension of random arrival testing for vaccinated travellers. 

This week, the Canadian government announced it would soon drop the requirement that all domestic and outbound international air travellers provide proof of vaccination in order to board their flights. 

In making the announcement, federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos noted that nearly 90 per cent of Canadians have had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, but said two shots are "no longer enough." 

"Our rate of boosters in Canada is too low," Duclos said. "It's lower than all other G7 countries, and that is not good."

In B.C., 91 per cent of people ages five and older have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 88 per cent have had two shots. Among adults, 61 per cent have had a booster shot.

The province administered 55,564 total vaccine doses between June 5 and 11, but more than 80 per cent of them were second boosters for people ages 70 and older. A total of 5,752 were first boosters.

MOST REPORTED DEATHS NOT CAUSED BY COVID-19

B.C.'s focus on fourth shots for the elderly and others at greater risk of serious illness from COVID-19 reflects the disproportionate share of pandemic deaths those groups have suffered.

Thursday's update from the BCCDC recorded 50 new deaths from June 5 to 11 among individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 within 30 days of dying. That number is expected to be adjusted upward "as data become more complete." 

This "30-day, all-cause mortality" measure does not account for how many people's deaths were actually caused by COVID-19 during the period, however. B.C.'s Vital Statistics agency determines the underlying cause of death, a process that can take eight weeks.

The BCCDC situation report shows how many people have actually died from COVID-19 since the province switched to reporting pandemic-related deaths this way on April 2.

As of June 4, there had been 627 deaths among people with a recent positive COVID-19 test since April 2. Of those, the underlying cause for 234 had not yet been determined.

Of the remaining 393, Vital Statistics had determined that 174 had COVID-19 as an underlying cause, while 219 did not. That means roughly 44 per cent of the deaths reported in weekly COVID-19 updates since April 2 – for which the cause has been determined – were actually caused by the disease.

These COVID-caused deaths have occurred across age groups, with one person under age 10 and two others in their 30s dying because of the disease since April 2 in B.C.

The vast majority of COVID-caused deaths, however, have been among the elderly, with more than half of the Vital-Statistics-confirmed deaths coming among those ages 80 and older. The median age of death is 87, according to the BCCDC. 

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