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B.C. shifting reporting to identify COVID-19-caused hospital admissions

Hospital cases jump, but up to half admitted for other conditions
Cariboo Memorial Hospital in Williams Lake. B.C. hospitals are changing their method of counting COVID-19 cases to include those who are admitted for other medical conditions and then test positive in screening. (Williams Lake Tribune)

The day after B.C. set a new record of 534 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the jump to more than 600 on Friday is mainly due to a change in who is counted.

B.C. health authorities reported 646 COVID-positive patients in hospitals as of Jan. 14, many of whom have contracted the rapidly spreading Omicron variant incidentally and were tested after being admitted for surgery or other health conditions.

There are 95 people with active COVID-19 infections in intensive care, down from 102 in the past 24 hours. As of today, the province is reporting “bed-census” figures for hospital patients, including all with active infections.

There have been six additional deaths attributed to COVID-19 since Thursday, three in the Fraser Health region, two in Interior Health and one on Vancouver Island. One new health care outbreak was declared Friday, at Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria, and outbreaks at eight senior care facilities were declared over, for a total of 46 active outbreaks in B.C. health care.

B.C.’s COVID-19 hospitalization rate has been closely monitored as it has risen sharply a week behind the soaring infection rate, and a change in reporting is the start of a clearer picture of the real impact of the Omicron variant that is taking over, Henry said at a data briefing Friday. The latest analysis shows B.C.’s fifth wave of infection has peaked, and is expected to continue declining to low levels by mid-February.

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The province is still determining the impact of thousands of infections from the fast-spreading Omicron variant, with many of the current patients in B.C. hospitals and intensive care are suffering from effects of the Delta variant. Starting Jan. 14, the “incidental” positive tests, those who came into hospital for surgery or another conditions and hospital, are being totalled with patients admitted specifically with COVID-19 illness. The daily total will also include the small number of people infected with COVID-19 while in the hospital, until reporting can be automated to provide all three categories of infected patients separately.

Henry released the health ministry’s latest COVID-19 data and analysis Friday, including a month-long sample of patients admitted to Vancouver Coastal Health hospitals up to Jan. 11. That’s the largest sample so far of B.C. cases where the role of the coronavirus is detailed, and it shows roughly a half-and-half split.

“So what this tells us is that about 45 per cent of the people admitted to hospital with a COVID positive test, it was an incidental finding,” Henry said Jan. 14. “And about 50 per cent of them it was actually because of their COVID diagnosis.”

B.C. health authorities continue to operate scheduled appointment COVID-19 vaccination clinics around the province for residents age five and older. Registration and booking appointments in B.C. can be done online here, or by calling 1-833-838-2323 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., seven days a week.


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