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Weekly B.C. COVID-19 deaths lowest in a month

Scarce testing finding ever-fewer COVID-19 infections
Patients and visitors congregate outside Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver | Photo: Rob Kruyt

Despite most British Columbians having had multiple doses of COVID-19 vaccines, the pandemic continues to take lives. 

New provincial data show that another 20 people are thought to have died while infected with COVID-19 in the week up to Nov. 5. That pushes the province's presumed COVID-19 death toll to 4,532, 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 20 new deaths In the week up to Nov. 5, it raised its overall COVID-19 death toll by 27, to 4,552.

Other new data show 290 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. is at the lowest level that it has been since the province switched to providing weekly data updates in April: 407 in the week up to Nov. 5. Those 407 cases in a week work out to an average of 58.1 cases per day. The last time the province tended to have around that number of cases on a daily basis was in July 2021. 

Despite 407 new infections detected, the province increased its overall total for COVID-19 infections in the province during the pandemic by 561, to 387,936.

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.

While having fewer official known infections than previous weeks is great, the reason for the drop-off in known infections is that far fewer official tests are being conducted. There were 6,490 official tests in the week ended Nov. 5. 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, and there is some good news on that front. That rate has now fallen in each of the past four weeks, and is now 6.27 per cent. 

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