COVID-19 cases in B.C. hospitals at 2-month high, test positivity hits February levels

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British Columbia reported the most COVID-positive patients in provincial hospitals in more than two months on Thursday.

As of Oct. 20, there were 389 patients with COVID-19 in hospital, the most since Aug. 11, and 21 COVID- positive patients in critical care, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC).

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B.C.’s hospitalization model counts all cases in hospital, regardless of their reason for admission.

Many of the other COVID-19 metrics the province reports on a weekly basis have become unreliable for assessing the true situation in communities.

For the week ending Oct. 15, officials reported just 628 new cases. However, that figure relies only on lab-confirmed tests, which are no longer generally available to the public.

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More than 13 per cent of those severely limited tests — fewer than 6,500 were conducted for the week — came back positive that week, levels not seen since last February when the province was grappling with the first wave of the Omicron variant.

B.C. COVID-19 test positivity as of Oct. 15. BCCDC

For the week ending Oct. 15, the BCCDC reported 174 new hospital admissions province-wide, but those numbers are preliminary. Admissions are typically revised upward by over 20 per cent the following week.

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Pinning down the number of people actually dying from COVID-19 also remains a challenge.

For the week ending Oct. 15, the BCCDC reported 32 deaths. That number was derived by including anyone who had died within 30 days of testing positive for COVID, a number officials inaccurately captures COVID-19 fatalities.

Until last week, the province’s weekly Situation Report included a cumulative breakdown of deaths calculating deaths determined to have actually been caused by COVID-19 since April, and a further breakdown of those deaths by age.

Under a new data reporting model rolled out this week, the BCCDC is providing rolling week-by-week updates on deaths actually caused by COVID-19, though without an age breakdown.

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According to that report, at least 31 deaths had been confirmed to have been caused by COVID-19 since Sept. 04 — a number expected to rise, given the agency says it takes about eight weeks for the true underlying cause of death to be investigated.

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The independent B.C. COVID-19 Modelling Group also challenges the province’s death figures, arguing they significantly underreport the number of fatalities attributable to the virus.

In its latest report, the group again pointed to British Columbia’s high level of excess mortality, deaths above the province’s annual pre-COVID average. Just half of B.C.’s excess mortality can be explained by COVID-19, the B.C. heat dome and the province’s drug death crisis, the group found.

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