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B.C. moves to weekly ‘surveillance’ approach to COVID-19 data reporting

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: B.C. learns to live with the virus' COVID-19: B.C. learns to live with the virus
The message is clear that we all need to learn to the live with the virus as B.C. health officials prepare to lift remaining COVID-19 restrictions. As Richard Zussman reports, some are feeling ready to live in a new normal while others say the province is not doing enough to keep vulnerable people safe. – Apr 6, 2022

British Columbia health officials released their first update Thursday under a new model that will see COVID-19 data released weekly instead of daily.

The updates, released on Thursday, will include data covering a one-week period up to the prior Saturday. The B.C. Centre for Disease Control’s COVID-19 dashboard will also move from daily to weekly updates, which include a census of the number of people in hospital and intensive care.

The first weekly report covers the period from March 27 to April 2, while the dashboard is accurate as of April 7.

Read more: COVID-19: Five fewer cases in hospital as end of B.C.’s vaccine passport approaches

According to the Ministry of Health, the new model reflects a “surveillance” approach, as used with other respiratory illnesses such as the flu, rather than “case management” approach, and is focused on “identifying meaningful changes in COVID-19 trends over time across different regions of the province.”

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“The new system continues to provide the data required to guide public health decision-making and allows everybody to have an accurate picture of the COVID-19 climate in their area,” the ministry added in a media release.

Click to play video: 'COVID-19 infection numbers go up as B.C. prepares to lift another pandemic health measure' COVID-19 infection numbers go up as B.C. prepares to lift another pandemic health measure
COVID-19 infection numbers go up as B.C. prepares to lift another pandemic health measure – Apr 6, 2022

The shift in reporting comes as the province enters what some experts believe is a sixth wave of the pandemic.

After declining steadily for nearly two months, the number of cases in B.C. hospitals has grown by 27 per cent over the past two weeks.

As of April 7, there were 324 cases of COVID-19 in B.C. hospitals, including 38 cases in critical or intensive care.

According to the B.C. CDC’s first weekly report, the province reported 1,706 new COVID-19 cases and 193 COVID-19 hospital admissions between March 27 and April 2.

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Of the admissions, 81 were in the Fraser Health region, 52 were in the Interior Health region, 17 were in the Northern Health region, 38 were in the Vancouver Coastal Health region and 32 were in the Island Health region.

Restricted access to PCR testing means that confirmed COVID-19 cases continue to significantly under-represent the true number of cases in the community.

The new report does not include admissions to intensive care, data the province says will now be reported in the B.C. CDC’s weekly situation reports.

Read more: COVID-19: B.C. vaccine card mandate set to be dropped on Friday

The province is also changing the way it tracks deaths, moving to an “all cause mortality” model that includes deaths due to any cause among people who tested positive for COVID-19 within the prior 30 days. Thursday’s report tracks 11 such deaths.

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The province said it was using “all cause mortality” because it takes roughly eight weeks for an official cause of death to be reported. It acknowledged the method would include some deaths not related to COVID, but the B.C. CDC says it will be doing retrospective evaluates of cause of death to better understand true COVID-19 mortality.

Since the start of the pandemic, British Columbia has reported a total of 357,242 cases, 19,897 hospital admissions and 3,004 deaths.

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