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B.C. shifts to weekly COVID-19 data reports starting April 7

New automated counting system will over-report COVID-19 deaths
Provincial health officer Bonnie Henry speaks to media | Photo: B.C. Government

The B.C. government on April 7 plans to replace its daily data updates on the spread of COVID-19 with weekly updates to be provided each Thursday.

Those weekly updates are expected to be more extensive than the daily updates had been.

One problem with the new weekly updates is that counting systems are changing, and the number of COVID-19 deaths will be over-reported. 

The current system uses what health officials call "line lists," where each new death is investigated manually to determine if it was due to COVID-19 before the death is added to the provincial COVID-19 death toll, which now sits at 3,002.

The future system will report all new deaths of people who at some point in the past 30 days had tested positive for COVID-19. Then, perhaps a month or more later, information from the province's Vital Statistics Agency will enable officials to remove deaths deemed not due to COVID-19 from the province's total.

This means that the running tally will always include some over-reported deaths from the previous month. 

New COVID-19 infections will continue to be reported based on positive PCR tests.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has called these counts "not accurate" because she for months has been telling people who are vaccinated and are showing mild symptoms to simply self-isolate and not get tested. Doing that will save testing capacity for more vulnerable people, she has said in recent months. 

COVID-19 hospitalizations will also continue to be counted the same broad way that the province has counted them since January 14.

Before January 14, the only COVID-19 patients that the province counted were B.C. residents who went to hospitals because of a bad case of COVID-19, and had not yet gone 10 days after first feeling symptoms. The broadened reporting used now includes people who normally reside outside the province, people who remain in hospital after having gone 10 days from first feeling symptoms and people who tested positive for COVID-19 while in hospital for a reason other than COVID-19 – what is called an incidental case.

Health official estimates are that about half of the 321 people now counted as being COVID-19 patients are in hospital because of COVID-19, while the rest have incidental cases that were discovered only through testing in the hospital.