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B.C. records 30 more COVID-19 deaths

Main metrics tracking COVID-19 in B.C. have been range-bound in recent months
The emergency department at VGH has recently had long lineups | Photo: Rob Kruyt

Metrics tracking the COVID-19 pandemic in B.C. have been range-bound in range in recent weeks, making clear that the pandemic is not yet over. 

New provincial data, however, show that another 30 people are thought to have died while infected with COVID-19 in the week up to Nov. 12. That pushes the province's presumed COVID-19 death toll to 4,607, according to the provincial government.

Provincial COVID-19 data is widely seen as inaccurate in part because of regular math errors, but also because of the way the province conducts its counts for new infections, hospitalizations and deaths. 

The province's methodology for calculating COVID-19 deaths is seen as unreliable because it includes everyone who has died after having officially tested positive for COVID-19 within the past month – a process that could include people who die in car accidents. The province also starts its countdown for that 30-day window when a person first tests positive for COVID-19, and it does not reset that clock for subsequent detected infections. 

B.C.'s Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry said in April, when she introduced this new counting methodology, that the province's Vital Statistics Agency would later determine that some deaths were not due to COVID-19, and that it would remove those deaths from the province's overall death toll. That process would mean that the overall COVID-19 death toll would be rising by less than the number of new weekly deaths – the opposite of what is happening.

Despite B.C. counting 30 new deaths In the week up to Nov. 12, it raised its overall COVID-19 death toll by 55, to 4,607. That is the most new COVID-19 deaths in a week since the week ended Oct. 22. 

Other new data show 328 COVID-19 patients in B.C. hospitals as of today, including 26 in intensive care units (ICUs).

B.C.'s count for COVID-19 hospital patients includes those who are in hospital for non-COVID-19 reasons, and who just happened to test positive for COVID-19. Henry said earlier this year that about half of the hospital patients then counted as having COVID-19 were these "incidental" cases. She has said that incidental cases of COVID-19 are far less prominent among those who are in ICUs.

Newly detected COVID-19 infections in B.C. rose by 80, compared with last week, to 487. Since the first infection was detected in January 2020, B.C. has recorded 388,984 COVID-19 cases. 

Data for new infections is largely seen as inaccurate because most people who contract COVID-19 do not contact B.C. health authorities. Henry late last year told vaccinated people who have mild COVID-19 symptoms to simply self-isolate and not get tested. Her intent was to free up staff time at testing centres, which then endured hours-long line-ups.

Official COVID-19 testing in B.C. is a shadow of what it oncewas. There were 6,646 official tests in the week ended Nov. 12. Two months ago, there were about 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.

The drop-off in testing is why the positive-test rate is a more useful indicator of the disease's spread. With 487 new infections and 6.646 tests, the positive-test rate is now 7.33 per cent. This was the first week in the past five that this rate has increased. 

The province no longer reports how many seniors' care homes have active outbreaks. •