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New B.C. COVID-19 cases at six-week high

Province reports 584 new COVID-19 infections in the past day
B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix held a late afternoon press conference today | B.C. government

B.C.'s battle against COVID-19 is going better than in many parts of the world, but cases are rising, and reached an almost six-week high on December 15. 

The 584 infections that health officials detected in the past 24 hours is the highest total since November 4, when they discovered 594 infections. While that number is more than it has been, authorities also conducted more testing in a day than they have in weeks – 14,768. As such, the positive-test rate in B.C. in the past day fell to 3.95%, down from 4.25% yesterday.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix tried to put B.C.'s numbers in context by saying that on a per-capita basis, in the U.K., there are about 10 or 11 times more cases per day being detected than there are in B.C.

"France – they have nine to 10 times as many cases [detected per day per-capita,]" Dix said. "In Germany, they have eight to nine times as many cases."

Rising numbers of COVID-19 infections across Canada, however, have been worrying politicians, in part because the easily transmissible Omicron variant is a greater proportion of cases, particularly in Ontario and Quebec. The most recent data for Omicron in B.C. was from December 12, when there were 44 cases, which would be less than 2% of B.C.'s COVID-19 infections.

Active COVID-19 infections in B.C. rose to 3,458, which is the most in almost one month. The Delta variant, which is a variant of concern that B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix today called "vicious," remains the dominant strain in B.C. of the SARS-C0V-2 virus, which causes COVID-19.

Dix told media that the Omicron strain is of similar concern, and that not only does he support the federal government's announcement earlier today that Canadians are advised to avoid non-essential international travel, but he also thinks that British Columbians should avoid non-essential travel within Canada. 

"If it isn't essential, don't go," he said.

Dix did not announce any new restrictions on the size of indoor gatherings, but he said that his government is considering putting such restrictions in place.

There are now 193 people in B.C. hospitals with COVID-19, which is about 51% of the 376 such patients one month ago. Of the 193 COVID-19 patients now in B.C. hospitals, 77 are in intensive care units (ICUs).

Seven more people have died from COVID-19 in the past day, raising the province's pandemic death toll to 2,393.

Of the 224,245 people known to be infected in B.C. with COVID-19 since the province's first case was detected in January, 2020, 218,295, or 97.3%, are considered by the government to have recovered. 

The B.C. government usually considers COVID-19 patients to have recovered if they have gone 10 days following first feeling symptoms, as they are therefore deemed to no longer be infectious. Some patients, however, continue to have health problems for months after their recoveries.

Unvaccinated people are the ones mostly spreading the disease. 

Between December 7 and December 13, people not fully vaccinated accounted for 48.9% of new cases, and between November 30 and December 13, those individuals accounted for 72% of hospitalizations. 

This is despite the vast majority of British Columbians being fully vaccinated. 

Dix stressed the importance of not only getting vaccinated with two doses, so as to be considered "fully vaccinated," but also to sign up for a booster shot as soon as health officials issue an invitation. B.C. provided 23,567 booster doses in the past day, which is a record for a one-day period. In total, officials have provided 633,831 booster doses in B.C.

Many in the province have been wondering why B.C. does not have take-home, rapid-testing kits for residents, whereas in Alberta, the government has said that it will make the kits available to all Albertans. 

When asked why those kits are not yet available in B.C., Dix did not provide an explanation. He said that "based on what we were told in November and December, it was our expectation that take-home tests will be available, and they're not yet." 

Full COVID-19 data was still not released as of 6 p.m. on December 15.

As of yesterday, however, the B.C. government said 4,316,478 residents had received at least one dose of vaccine, while 4,105,425, or 95.1% of those were fully vaccinated with two doses.

Victoria estimated yesterday that 86.6% of eligible British Columbians, older than five years, have had at least one vaccine shot, while 82.4% of that eligible group was fully vaccinated with two jabs.

The B.C. government last year estimated in that the province's total population is 5,147,712, so Glacier Media's calculation yesterday was that 83.8% of B.C.'s total population has had at least one dose of vaccine, and nearly 79.8% of the province's total population has had two doses.

The outbreaks at Ridge Meadows Hospital in Maple Ridge, and Laurier Manor in Prince George have been declared over. The only health-care facility outbreak in the province now is at Ponderosa Lodge in Kamloops. •