BC COVID-19 hospital admissions rise for the first time since May


As BC’s independent COVID-19 modeling group predicts another wave of infections will sweep through the province and peak in August, weekly data released Thursday by the BC Center for Disease Control shows the wave is beginning. .

For the first time in two months, the number of coronavirus-positive patients in BC hospitals rose this week. On Thursday, 369 were in hospital, 36 of whom were in intensive care.

This chart shows the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 on Thursdays in BC since the province transitioned to a “hospital census” model in January. (KTV)

The BCCDC reports anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 upon hospitalization as a COVID-related hospitalization, even if the illness is not the primary reason the patient needs hospital care.

Since the county switched to this “hospital census” model for tracking hospital admissions in January, there were as many as 985 COVID-positive patients on Thursday and just 255.

The incoming wave of infections is the third caused by a variant of the Omicron strain of the virus.

The independent modeling group predicts that the BA.5 subvariant — believed to be responsible for the majority of new cases — will fuel the latest surge in infections, although it’s unclear how high the wave will be, or what impact it will have. have on BC’s already overburdened health care system.

The BCCDC’s latest report on coronavirus lineages in the province does not split BA.5, but did show that the proportion of ‘other’ variants – including BA.5, BA.4 and some strains of BA.2 – increases.

The “other” category accounted for about half of all coronavirus genomes in the province during the week of June 19-25.

The BCCDC said BA.5 rose the fastest, accounting for about 40 percent of all cases during the week in question, which ended 10 days ago.

CASES AND WASTEWATER

Hospital admissions are generally a lagging indicator of COVID-19 transmission. They usually don’t start to rise or fall until a week or more after the number of infections starts to rise or fall.

However, this effect is somewhat offset in BC’s data, as the number of patients in hospital is the only figure the BCCDC releases in real time. All other data the center publishes each week is based on the last completed ‘epidemiological week’.

Thursday’s data on infections and wastewater monitoring is from the week of June 26 to July 2, meaning it is five days behind the number of patients in hospital.

Still, the number of new cases reported for the period was up — the first time weekly cases have risen since the epidemiological week ending April 30.

The BCCDC reported 765 new lab-confirmed infections from June 26 to July 2, up from 620 the week before.

Those totals include only “lab-confirmed, lab-probable, and epi-linked cases,” according to the BCCDC. They do not include the results of rapid home tests, the only type of test available to most BC residents, meaning the numbers released each week do not reflect the total spread of COVID-19 in the province.

Wastewater data from the Lower Mainland may help approximate the trend in infections in people who are not eligible for lab testing.

As of July 2, viral loads at four of five wastewater treatment plants in the lower mainland showed rising trends, with only the plant on Lulu Island showing a modest decline in coronavirus concentrations, according to the BCCDC’s weekly “situation report.”

At the Lions Gate plant on the North Shore, viral loads increased by 115 percent week over week, and at the Northwest Langley plant, they have increased 251 percent in the past three weeks.

VACCINATIONS AND FUTURE PLANNING

Earlier this week, Health Secretary Adrian Dix told reporters at a news conference that the province was preparing for a COVID-19 resurgence in the fall, saying everyone in BC should expect a booster dose of vaccine at that time.

Dix has another press conference with Dr. Penny Ballem, where he will discuss the county’s vaccination strategy.

Although vaccination has not prevented waves of infections caused by Omicron and its subvariants, it has significantly reduced the risk of serious consequences of the disease.

BCCDC data shows that a person with three or more doses of vaccine is about half as likely to be hospitalized as an unvaccinated person of the same age and about a third as likely to need critical care.

With the number of cases and hospitalizations in BC starting to rise again, the number of health care workers out of work due to illness is also increasing.

According to Dix, 16,400 health workers took at least one day off from work in the week of June 20, up from about 15,000 a few weeks earlier.

Not all of those days off were caused by COVID-19, but industry workers – already experiencing burnout after more than two years of the pandemic – say the increased spread of the coronavirus is putting more strain on the system.

Hospital staff policy and planning coordinator Mike Old said health professionals are facing an “alarming” situation when it comes to COVID-19.

“We’re seeing health care job openings due to illness that we haven’t seen since late January,” he said. “Employees are really, really burned out.”

Old said in a poll of members that one in four said their employers aren’t filling for illness or other job openings, and one in three are considering leaving the healthcare sector in the next two years.

“It’s really important that members of our community understand that when they protect themselves from the transmission of COVID, they are also protecting our health care system,” he said. “Our health workers need all the help they can get.”

Dix said the county is continuing its efforts to strengthen the health care system and recruit and train more workers.

When asked whether the government would consider bringing back any of its previous COVID-related restrictions in the fall, Dix declined to rule it out.

“No option is ever ruled out,” he said, adding that officials still recommend the use of masks indoors.

“I’m the health minister, I have access to a lot of health information; I wear masks in indoor public areas,” Dix said.

Featuring files from CTV News Vancouver’s Andrew Weichel and Maria Weisgarber

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