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COVID-19 hospitalizations in B.C. rise to record high: 534

Seven more deaths raise the province's pandemic death toll to 2,462
Health officials advise people to wear tight-fitting masks in indoor spaces to reduce the risk of catching COVID-19 | Photo: valentinrussanov/Getty Images

The number of COVID-19 patients sick enough to need hospital care in B.C. today rose in the 11th consecutive data update, to a record 534 – 34 more than yesterday. 

Of those, 102 COVID-19 patients are in B.C. intensive care units (ICUs,) with that being the same number as yesterday. 

The number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals is a key indicator of how bad the fifth wave of the disease is becoming in B.C., because data for new case counts and active infections are seen by even health officials as unreliable. 

Seven new COVID-19 deaths in the past day raise the province's pandemic death toll to 2,462.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix on January 11 provided the most recent data on overall hospital occupancy. Of B.C.'s total of 11,582 acute-care hospital beds, 9,401, or nearly 81.2%, were filled, he said.  B.C. has a total of 728 ICU beds, of which 464, or 63.7%, were filled, he added.

Dix said on January 11 that his government was looking into potentially creating a field hospital at the Vancouver Convention Centre in space now being used to provide booster doses of vaccine. He stressed, however, that this planning was in the early stages and that there was no definitive initiative to create that hospital. He and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry are scheduled to address media tomorrow morning. 

New and active case counts are widely seen to be unreliable because the province's system for testing the general public has been strained. During the holiday season, Dix and Henry told vaccinated people who have mild symptoms to self-isolate and not burden the province's testing centres, which were seeing multi-hour waits. While they urged sick individuals to report their illnesses to government, many infections likely went unreported.

Officials in the past day detected 2,554 new COVID-19 infections. This number is in the range of what the province has been seeing in recent weeks, and it helped the total number of active cases fall by 592, to 36,049 – the first decline in the number of active cases since exactly one month ago.

Of the 291,246 known COVID-19 infections in the province since the first case was detected in January 2020, 249,458, or 85.6%, are deemed by the government to have recovered. In most cases, that recovery status is determined when patients go 10 days after first exhibiting symptoms. Many people deemed recovered continue to suffer long-term health problems. 

Older British Columbians have shown to be vulnerable to more serious infections, and deaths, so it is concerning that health-care facilities, seniors' care homes and retirement communities are increasingly developing outbreaks.

B.C. has 53 active outbreaks at those facilities, while one month ago, there were three.

The five new outbreaks in those facilities in the past 24 hours include:
• Lakeview Lodge in West Kelowna;
• The Hamlets at Vernon, in Vernon;
• Brocklehurst Gemstone Care Centre in Kamloops;
• Dufferin Place in Nanaimo; and
• Beacon Hill Villa in Victoria. 

Fully vaccinated people are contracting COVID-19 in slightly lower proportion to their share of the population, and illnesses tend to be milder and require hospital care less frequently. 

Between Jan. 5 and Jan. 11, people not fully vaccinated accounted for 21% of cases. Between Dec. 29 and Jan. 11, those individuals accounted for 34.5% of hospitalizations.

The B.C. government estimates that 88.9% of eligible British Columbians, older than five years, have had at least one vaccine shot, while 83.3% of that eligible population is fully vaccinated with two jabs.

Provincial data show 4,433,294 B.C. residents have had at least one dose of vaccine, while 93.6% of those, or 4,150,713, are considered fully vaccinated with two doses.

The B.C. government last year estimated that the province's total population is 5,147,712. Hence, Glacier Media's calculation is that 86% of B.C.'s total population has had at least one dose of vaccine, and 80.6% of the province's total population has had two doses.

Most new doses of vaccine are third doses. Another 3,447 British Columbians received first doses of vaccine in the past day while 2,175 received second doses. There were a daily record of 59,329 third, or booster, doses provided in the past day, for a total of 1,352,152. Dix earlier this week reiterated his promise to have about 1,000 pharmacies able to dispense third doses of vaccine by the end of January. •