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COVID-19 cases in B.C. hospitals climb 13% as test-positivity rate rise in most areas

Click to play video: 'Connecting the dots between COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses'
Connecting the dots between COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses
WATCH: New questions about what role, if any, COVID-19 is playing in the surge of respiratory viruses among pediatric patients. University of Toronto Epidemiologist Colin Furness explores the potential link. – Nov 17, 2022

The number of COVID-19 cases in B.C. hospitals climbed by 13 per cent in the last week, as test positivity across the province ticked upward.

As of Nov. 17, there were 328 COVID cases in hospital, up from 290 the week prior, while the number of cases in critical care remained unchanged at 26, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

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

Read more: B.C. hospitals’ intensive care units slammed with sick children

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The numbers do not reflect rising hospital admissions for other respiratory illnesses, including influenza and RSV, including a surge in children.

On Wednesday, provincial officials strongly advised British Columbians to resume wearing masks in indoor public places due to rising pressure on the hospital system, but stopped short of implementing a mask mandate.

Click to play video: 'B.C. health officials encourage masks indoor but no mask mandate'
B.C. health officials encourage masks indoor but no mask mandate

B.C. releases a variety of other COVID-19 data on Thursdays, though it comes with a number of caveats that make its utility in understanding the virus’ true spread difficult.

For the week ending Nov. 12, B.C. reported just 487 new lab-confirmed cases. However, that figure was derived from a mere 6,646 tests. B.C. stopped testing all but the most vulnerable groups in December 2021.

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Provincewide, those tests found a B.C.-wide test-positivity rate of 9.8 per cent, up from 8.6 per cent last week. Test-positivity rates climbed in all health authorities except Vancouver Island. The highest positivity rates were in the Interior Health region (17.7 per cent), Northern Health region (14.2 per cent) and Island Health region (13.4 per cent).

For the week ending Nov. 12, there were 144 new hospital admissions of COVID-positive patients, though this figure is typically revised upward more than 20 per cent the following week.

Tracking the true number of COVID-19 fatalities also remains a major challenge.

The BCCDC reported 30 deaths for the week ending Nov. 12, though this number is also typically revised significantly upward the following week. The 20 deaths reported last week, for example, have now been doubled to 40.

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Read more: No need for ‘heavy hand’ of a mask mandate: B.C.’s provincial health officer

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Further complicating the matter, the province counts all deaths that occur within 30 days of a patient’s first COVID diagnosis, which it admits overestimates fatalities.

Subsequent BCCDC reviews have found an average of just one in four of these all-cause mortality deaths were actually caused by COVID. The agency says it takes about eight weeks to determine a true cause of death.

Of the 1,574 “COVID deaths” reported this way since April 1, later review found 635 were actually caused by the virus, while 801 were not and 138 remained under investigation.

The BCCDC reported that more than 89 per cent of those 635 deaths were among people aged 70 and over.

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The BCCDC’s latest situation report confirms at least 113 COVID-19 deaths occurred between Aug. 8 and Sept. 18, an average of about 2.7 per day.

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