B.C. health officials had a mix of good news and bad news related to COVID-19 today. The good news was that it announced that third doses of vaccine will start to be rolled out to those older than 70 years, and some health-care workers. In what is expected to provide better protection, the plan is to start providing third doses to everyone in B.C., starting in January.
The bad news was that the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in B.C. is at a new high since May 13: 390.
Of those, 155 are intensive care units (ICUs) – more than at any time since September 22 – and 133 COVID-19 patients in ICUs are unvaccinated.
Of the 43 COVID-19 patients younger than 50 years old who are now in ICUs in B.C., 42 are unvaccinated, Health Minister Adrian Dix said.
Another two people have died from COVID-19 in the past day, raising B.C.'s pandemic death toll to 2,131. New cases continue to rack up, with health officials newly diagnosing 457 British Columbians with COVID-19 in the past day.
Of the 202,973 people known to have contracted COVID-19 in B.C. since the first case was detected in January, 2020, 96.4%, or 195,646 people, are deemed by the province to have recovered. In most cases, that diagnosis is because the patients have gone more than 10 days after first feeling symptoms, and are therefore considered to be not infectious.
Today's higher number of hospitalizations may in part be due to a data correction.
Provincial health officer Bonnie Henry said there had been recent inaccurate hospitalization data from Interior Health.
"In total, the number of people ever hospitalized who had COVID-19 in Interior Health has gone up by about 204 – from 1,544 people to 1,748 people," she said. "And the number of people currently in hospital will go up, from 23, which is reported today, to 63. ... It is important to recognize that the overall number of cases is accurate, and stays the same. It's the number of people who have ever been hospitalized as part of their COVID-19 infection that we are now correcting."
She added that in addition to the official number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals, there are "in the vicinity of" 170 additional people in B.C. hospitals who no longer have acute COVID-19 illnesses, and who are not deemed infectious, but who are taking up beds because they are dealing with lingering health problems.
Some good news is that B.C.'s total number of hospital beds appears to have risen. Earlier this month, Health Minister Adrian Dix said that B.C. had 9,218 base beds, which largely existed pre-pandemic, and 2,353 so-called "surge" beds that were newly added during the pandemic. Today, he said B.C. has 9,229 base beds, and 2,553 surge beds, which would be a total of 11,782 beds. With 8,817 filled base beds, and 410 filled surge beds, B.C.'s total hospital-bed occupancy is now 78.3%. Dix has said numerous times that pre-pandemic, B.C. hospitals had been at 103% capacity.
The lower occupancy rate at B.C. hospitals now is because the province has been postponing surgeries to ensure that there is room in hospitals if there is a spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations.
Between October 17 and October 23, 200 surgeries were postponed, Dix said. The postponed surgeries in that week included:
• 17 in Fraser Health;
• 77 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
• 98 in Island Health;
• eight in Northern Health; and
• none in Interior Health.
"There have been now been 2,140 surgical postponements," Dix said. "For the most recent reporting week we have – from October 3 to October 9 – authorities report that 6,604 surgeries were completed."
Despite more room in B.C. hospitals than pre-pandemic, there are parts of the province – particularly in Northern Health – where hospitals' ICUs are at capacity. So far 67 ICU patients from that region have been transported to hospitals in the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island.
B.C. has been rapidly hiring contact tracing workers who determine who might have come in contact with people who have tested positive for COVID-19. There are now 1,542 contact tracers in B.C., including 20 people who were hired in the past week.
B.C. for the first time released the exact number of people who have so far received third doses of vaccine: 90,425. Those doses have largely gone to immunocompromised people.
Vaccinations in the general population have slowed as the vast majority of people are already vaccinated.
Health officials administered initial vaccine doses to 2,726 people in the past day, as well as second doses of vaccine to 7,849 people.
Across B.C., 89.6% of eligible people older than 12 have had at least one dose of vaccine, with 84.5% of eligible people having had two doses, according to the B.C. government.
Of the 4,155,181 B.C. residents who have received one dose of vaccine since mid-December, 2020, 94.3%, or 3,918,385, are fully vaccinated, with two doses.
The B.C. government estimated in July that the province's total population is 5,147,712, so Glacier Media's calculation is that 80.7% of B.C.'s total population has had at least one dose of vaccine, and 76.1% of the province's total population has had two doses.
Northern Health is by far the hardest hit region in B.C., in part because the vaccination rate is lower in that area.
Glacier Media's broke down the 457 new infections by health region, for each 10,000 residents (with total new cases in brackets).
• 1 in Fraser Health (176);
• 0.5 in Vancouver Coastal Health (61);
• 1.1 in Interior Health (83);
• 2.7 in Northern Health (82); and
• 0.6 in Island Health (55).
There were no new infections among people who normally do not reside in Canada.
The result by health region, for the 4,829 people fighting active infections, for each 10,000 residents (with total new cases in brackets) is:
• 11.1 in Fraser Health (2,002);
• 5.4 in Vancouver Coastal Health (670);
• 8.7 in Interior Health (642);
• 29.2 in Northern Health (877); and
• 6.8 in Island Health (579).
There are 59 active infections in the province in people who normally reside outside B.C.
Active outbreaks are ongoing at 28 health-care facilities. The outbreak at Evergreen Manor in White Rock has been declared over. •