COVID-19: B.C. hospital cases fall again, report argues latest wave has peaked

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The number of COVID-19 cases in B.C. hospitals fell to its lowest since June on Thursday, as independent experts say the latest Omicron-driven wave has peaked.

As of Aug. 18, there were 366 cases in hospital, down 32 from last week. Twenty-two cases are in critical care, unchanged since last Thursday.

B.C. reports all positive cases in its hospitals, regardless of the reason why the person was admitted.

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The update follows the independent B.C. COVID-19 Modelling Group’s Wednesday report, which said the Omicron BA.5 variant wave had peaked.

The report said that while the variant did have some more transmissible sub-lineages, none appeared to be strong enough to drive another wave in the near future.

The report also suggested that current COVID-19 infection rates may be as much as 100-fold underreported, citing serology (blood test) data.

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Molecular testing for COVID-19 has been severely restricted in the province since late December 2021, and just 15,332 tests were conducted in the week ending Aug. 13, confirming 877 new cases.

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Despite the apparent improvements, the number of people admitted to hospital with COVID actually increased to 181 in the week ending Aug. 13.

Those figures are preliminary, however, and weekly admission data has been consistently revised upward significantly.

For context, the BCCDC originally reported 173 COVID-19 hospital admissions between July 31 and Aug. 6. That number has now been revised to 226, an increase of 30.6 per cent.

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Thursday’s BCCDC report also documented 24 new deaths, a figure that is even less reliable than hospital admissions.

Like admissions, deaths are typically revised upward the following week. However, because B.C. counts all fatalities among people who have had COVID in the previous 30 days, the province says the metric significantly overestimates deaths.

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Subsequent analysis by the BCCDC estimates that just 43 per cent of fatalities between April 9 and June 16 had COVID-19 as the underlying cause of death.

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The B.C. COVID-19 modelling group, by contrast, has suggested COVID deaths may actually be higher than reported, based on excess mortality in B.C. since the start of the pandemic — the number of additional deaths beyond what would be expected based on pre-pandemic years.

The report found just half of the excess mortality was explained in official B.C. statistics, including COVID-19 deaths, the heat dome and the toxic drug crisis.

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The report argued that COVID-19 can cause a heightened health risk long beyond the 30-day period the BC CDC uses in its fatality metric, suggesting the province is “likely substantially undercounting deaths due to COVID.”

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