A sample of people admitted to B.C. hospitals up during the fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic shows a “dramatic decrease” in the proportion of new infections leading to serious illness, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Friday.
But with the greatly expanded number of infections since the fast-spreading Omicron variant began to dominate B.C. cases, the total number of COVID-19 positive hospital admissions remains high, although that is showing signs of slowing down along with the number of daily infections. A sample of 606 patients admitted between Dec. 4 and Jan. 6 showed the number of confirmed cases during the period was at 1.2 per cent, similar to the previous rate but on a greatly expanded number of community infections.
“So that is very similar to what we presented in the modelling presentation a week ago, and it shows that it is a dramatic decrease from what we saw with the Delta wave that we were managing between September and October,” Henry said at a briefing Jan. 21. “The single most important risk factor for having severe illness with COVID-19 that requires hospitalization is age. And people who are aged 80 and over are 28 times more likely to be hospitalized if they get infected with COVID-19, controlling for every other risk factor.”
Hospital admissions for people with immune-compromising conditions such as diabetes, respiratory illness or heart disease have increased, but protection from three doses of vaccine continues strong, as high-risk groups were the first priority for booster doses, Henry said. The risk of going unvaccinated continues to show up for younger people.
“The challenge, of course, that we have is that Omicron is infecting many more people,” Henry said. “So this lower hospitalization rate still translates into large numbers of people requiring hospital care and we’re seeing that impact in our hospitals right now.”