BC’s COVID-19 ICU patient numbers hit 16-week high

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New suspected COVID-19 deaths in the province fell to 21 from 30 a week ago

Serious COVID-19 infections increased in BC in the past week, with 37 people now sick enough to be in intensive care units (ICUs), according to provincial data released this afternoon.

That is the highest number of COVID-19 patients in BC ICUs since August 4, when there were 38. The highest number of COVID-19 patients in BC ICUs was 178 on April 29, 2021.

The number of those infected with COVID-19 in BC hospitals as a whole remained flat at 328 today. Peak of COVID-19 hospitalizations in B.C. was on January 31, when 1,048 such people occupied hospital beds. The province has a total of 11,582 hospital beds, including what it calls surge beds, which can strain the system because they require additional resources.

BC’s numbers for COVID-19 hospital patients include those who are in hospital for non-COVID-19 reasons and who just happened to test positive for COVID-19. BC’s Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry said earlier this year that about half of the hospital patients then thought to have COVID-19 were “accidental” cases. She has said that accidental cases of COVID-19 are far less prominent among those in intensive care units.

A high number of people infected with COVID-19 in intensive care is worrying as it could lead to more deaths.

The number of those in BC who died from COVID-19 in the week ending Nov. 19 dropped to 21 from 30 the previous week.

The province’s method of calculating COVID-19 deaths is seen as unreliable because it includes everyone who died after officially testing positive for COVID-19 within the past month — a process that can include people who die in car crashes . The province also starts its countdown to the 30-day window when a person first tests positive for COVID-19, and it does not reset that clock for subsequently detected infections.

Henry said in April when she introduced this new counting method that the province’s Vital Statistics Agency would later determine that some deaths were not due to COVID-19 and would remove those deaths from the province’s total death toll. That process would mean that the total number of COVID-19 deaths would increase by less than the number of new weekly deaths – the opposite of what is happening.

The province’s total number of COVID-19 deaths in BC, since the first was officially announced on March 9, 2020, is now 4,642, or 35 more than a week ago, despite only 21 new deaths being recorded.

Glacier Media has asked BC’s Ministry of Health about the continued disparity, but it has been unable to explain why this continues to happen. It has said that data “may be incomplete.”

BC’s data for new infections is largely seen as inaccurate because most people who get COVID-19 do not contact BC health authorities. Late last year, Henry told vaccinated people who have mild COVID-19 symptoms to simply isolate themselves and not get tested. Her intention was to free up staff time at testing centers, which then endured hour-long lineups.

Official COVID-19 testing in BC is also a shadow of what it once was. There were 6,637 official tests in the week ending November 19. Two months ago there were more than 15,000 official tests per week. In April, there were around 29,000 official tests per week. Last year in November there were around 57,000 official tests per week.

Nevertheless, BC recorded 498 new COVID-19 infections – up 11 from the 487 new cases detected a week ago – for a total of 389,479 since the first one was detected in late January 2020.

Data deviations have been consistent in the public data.

Despite 498 newly recorded infections, the province has increased its number for total infections so far in the pandemic by 495.

The province no longer reports how many nursing homes for the elderly have active outbreaks. •

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