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COVID-19 hospitalizations in B.C. top 500 for first time; surgeries postponed

Non-urgent surgeries will be postponed in nine hospitals across the Lower Mainland for the next weeks.
Bonnie looking intense
Provincial health officer Bonnie Henry regularly addresses media on the spread of COVID-19 in B.C.

The number of British Columbians with COVID-19 fighting for their lives in hospitals has risen to record highs in each of the past seven consecutive reporting periods, and has topped 500 for the first time.

Of the 502 British Columbians now in hospitals with that disease, 161 are in intensive care units. 

To deal with the rise in hospitalizations, Health Minister Adrian Dix said April 22 that he is postponing non-urgent surgeries in nine hospitals across the Lower Mainland to ensure that the hospitals have sufficient staff to care for patients. The move is expected to eliminate, in the short term, 750 surgeries in the Fraser Health region, and 1,000 surgeries in the Vancouver Coastal Health region.

"We expect this action will be required for a minimum two weeks," Dix said. "We are going to evaluate it on a week by week basis."

The hospitals in the Fraser Health region with temporarily cancelled non-urgent surgeries are: 
• Abbotsford Regional Hospital;
• Burnaby hospital;
• Surrey Memorial Hospital; and
• Royal Columbian Hospital.

In Vancouver Coastal Health, the hospitals with temporarily cancelled non-urgent surgeries are: 
• Lions Gate hospital;
• Richmond hospital;
• St. Paul's hospital;
• UBC Hospital; and
• Vancouver General Hospital.

Provincial health officer Bonnie Henry urged people to still go to emergency departments if significant health issues arise, but she also expressed concern at the rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations.

"We're at a point where we have seen [COVID-19] hospitalizations for the first time that are causing this type of distress, and challenges to our healthcare system," Henry said. 

She called the rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations in B.C. to be "alarming," and that "the pressure on our healthcare system is immense."

Both Dix and Henry urged British Columbians to get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible, and to take whichever vaccine they are offered. She said that "by later tonight," those aged 60 and older will be eligible to book appointments in the province's age-based vaccine roll-out. She did not specify the exact hour. 

It has been six days since April 16, when the province last set a record for the number of vaccine doses provided in a 24-hour period, with 46,227 doses to 46,157 people, and 70 needed second doses.

In the past 24 hours, B.C. health officials provided 43,484 doses of vaccine to 43,344 people, with 140 people getting needed second doses. 

In total, the province has administered 1,500,430 doses of vaccine to 1,411,955 people, with 88, 475 people getting needed second doses since the first dose was provided on December 16. Earlier this week Henry said that the province is on track to vaccinate all eligible adults by July 1.

In the past day, health officials have detected 1,006 new COVID-19 infections.

The number of new cases continues to disproportionately be found in the province's most populous health region, Fraser Health. 

Here is the breakdown of where the 1,006 people with infections detected in the past day reside, by health region:
• 241 in Vancouver Coastal Health (24%);
• 600 in Fraser Health (59.6%);
• 37 in Island Health (3.7%);
• 83 in Interior Health (8.2%);
• 42 in Northern Health (4.2%); and
• thee people who usually reside outside Canada.

Henry only provided partial data at her press conference.

She and Dix, in a late-afternoon statement, said that the number of those actively infected with COVID-19 has shrunk to 8,733. That is the lowest total since April 7, when there were 8,728 people actively battling infections. 

Health officials are closely watching 12,846 people for symptoms because they have been exposed to someone known to have been carrying the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. That is the lowest total since April 5, when 11,989 people were being monitored. 

In total, B.C. has had 122,757 known cases of COVID-19, and more than 91.4%, or 112,235 people, are deemed by the province to have recovered.

Henry was asked about the B.1.617 variant, first discovered in India, and she said that at this point she does not consider it a variant of concern. 

Variants of concern are thought to either transmit more easily, cause more severe illness or be resistant to vaccines.

She said in her afternoon statement that the B.1.617 variant is "more transmissible than those circulating earlier in the pandemic," so her reason for not categorizing it as a variant of concern could be that she does not believe it causes more severe disease or that it is not resistant to vaccines. 

Anecdotal reports on social media include people who claim that relatives in India, who have been vaccinated, have contracted COVID-19 via the B.1.617 strain. 

Henry said the province has so far identified 42 cases of the B.1.617 strain. She did not a provide new data on any of the variants that she considers to be of particular concern, and said that "the latest variant-of-concern data will be provided on the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) website weekly."

The federal government today announced that it would ban flights from India and Pakistan from coming into Canada for the next 30 days. 

More than 100 international flights in the past two weeks have landed in Canada while carrying at least one person with a COVID-19 infection on board, according to the federal government.

With one new COVID-19 outbreak declared in B.C. at the Mount St. Mary facility, in Victoria, there are now five active outbreaks at long-term living, or seniors' homes in B.C. They are:
• Acropolis Manor in Prince Rupert;
• Cottonwoods Care Centre in Kelowna.
• Dufferin Care Centre in Coquitlam; 
• Mount St. Mary in Victoria; and
• Sunset Manor in Chilliwack.

Seven hospitals in B.C. now have active COVID-19 outbreaks. They are:
• Abbotsford Regional Hospital in Abbotsford;
• Dawson Creek and District Hospital in Dawson Creek;
• Nanaimo Regional General Hospital in Nanaimo;
• Prince Rupert Regional Hospital in Prince Rupert;
• Surrey Memorial Hospital in Surrey;
• UBC Hospital in Vancouver; and
• Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver.