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Deaths stay low as COVID-19 cases keep spiking in B.C.

Active infections rise to highest level since May.
Adrian Dix - TV camera
B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix spoke to media August 12

Soaring numbers of new COVID-19 infections in B.C. is raising the number of people actively battling the disease, but has not yet translated into significantly higher numbers of people in hospitals or intensive care units (ICUs), or into deaths.

B.C. health officials detected 717 new COVID-19 infections in the past day, raising hiking the number of people in the province fighting the disease to 4,277.

There have not been this many new cases detected in a day since May 7, when 722 people were diagnosed. The number of people actively battling infections is higher than it has been since May 21, when 4,507 people were actively infected.

Here is a breakdown of where the 717 new COVID-19 infections are in B.C.:
• 140 in Fraser Health (19.5%);
• 101 in Vancouver Coastal Health (14.1%);
• 376 in Interior Health (52.4%);
• 60 in Northern Health (8.4%); and
• 40 in Island Health (5.6%).

The 4,277 active infections, include: 
• 821 in Fraser Health (19.2%);
• 593 in Vancouver Coastal Health (13.9%);
• 2,446 in Interior Health (57.2%);
• 163 in Northern Health (3.8%);
• 245 in Island Health (5.7%); and
• nine people who normally reside outside B.C.

The number of those hospitalized with the disease rose by one overnight, to 82, which is the largest number since July 7, when 86 people were in hospitals. Six additional people are in ICU than yesterday, for a total of 39. That number has not been higher since June 23, when 41 people were fighting for their lives in ICUs.

No one is known to have died from COVID-19 in the past day. The province has averaged one COVID-19 death per day in the past week, for a total of 1,779 since the first death was recorded in March, 2020.

More than 96%, or 148,964, of the 155,079 people known to have contracted COVID-19 in B.C. are considered by the province to have recovered because they have gone 10 days after first feeling symptoms, and are therefore not thought to be infectious.

To limit the spread of COVID-19, the B.C. government has put in place measures to limit spread. For example, in the province's hot spot, the Central Okanagan, B.C. announced August 6 that a mask mandate would be in effect for indoor public settings.

On August 12, provincial health officer Bonnie Henry put a health order in place that requires all staff at seniors' living facilities to be vaccinated as of October 12.

Henry suggested that businesses are justified in requiring that all customers and staff be vaccinated, and that they should speak with legal council to see if that is OK.

"These are business decisions that they need to make in conjunction with their own labour lawyer advisors," she said. 

Provincial officials have hinted that a provincial vaccination-pass system could be put in place that would restrict access to social venues to people who have been vaccinated. No such plan has yet been detailed, but Dix has said his team is looking into potential new measures.

"There are other measures that can be considered and that we're looking at," Health Minister Adrian Dix said yesterday. "We're looking at all measures to protect people, and adjusting what we're doing in keeping with the circumstances, in keeping with what we know."

The stricter measures for seniors' homes involve all staff revealing personal health information – their vaccination status – to their employers. Henry and Dix both said that they had consulted legal counsel, and they believe the plan passes muster. 

"We now have eight outbreaks [in seniors' homes] introduced by unvaccinated people," she said. "We've seen transmission from unvaccinated staff."

Those outbreaks include:
• Evergreen Baptist Care Society in White Rock;
• Holyrood Manor in Maple Ridge; and
• KinVillage West Court in South Delta;
• Discovery Harbour in Campbell River;
• Kootenay Street Village in Cranbrook;
• Cottonwoods Care Centre in Kelowna;
• Brookhaven Care Centre in West Kelowna;
• Nelson Jubilee Manor in Nelson. 

The health order requiring staff vaccinations does not yet include those who work in hospitals, and other healthcare settings, although that could be on the horizon, Henry said. 

"We are looking at other high risk settings, like other healthcare settings," she said.

The order is not yet in place in hospitals because, "the level of risk is different in an acute care setting versus the communal-living setting, like long-term care."

Vaccinations are helping limit the spread of the SARS-C0V-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, although the pace of B.C.'s vaccination campaign has slowed, as most eligible residents are now fully vaccinated. 

British Columbians received 22,914 new doses of vaccine in the past day, with 4,317 of those being first doses, and 18,597 being needed second doses.

Of the 3,818,952 B.C. residents who have received at least one dose of vaccine, 87.4%, or 3,337,348, are fully vaccinated. 

The B.C. government estimated in February that the province's total population is 5,147,712, so that means that nearly 74.2% of B.C.'s total population has had at least one dose of vaccine, and more than 64.8% of the province's total population has had two doses.

The government's math holds that 82.4% of the province's eligible population, aged 12 years and older, has been vaccinated at least once, with 72% of eligible people being fully vaccinated. 

The B.C. government has never provided immediate breakdowns of how many new infections are in people who are unvaccinated. Instead, it provides this data weeks, and sometimes more than a month, later. 

Its most recent monthly statistics were for June 15 through July 15. That data show that of the 1,777 cases detected in that time frame, 1,210, or 68.1%, were in people who were either unvaccinated, or who had had their first vaccine dose within three weeks of first exhibiting symptoms.

Another 499 people, or 28.1%, had either received one dose of vaccine, or had not yet gone one week after having received a second dose. Only 68 cases, or 3.8% of those infections, were in people who had received two doses of vaccine and gone one week after that needed second dose before symptoms first started.

Within the June 15 through July 15 timeframe, only 4.5%, or eight of 176 people in hospital with COVID-19, had been fully vaccinated for more than seven days when symptoms first appeared. One of the 21 deaths in that time period, or 4.8%, were in people who had been fully vaccinated for more than seven days before symptoms first appeared.

On August 12, Henry said she believes more recent data show that fully vaccinated people continue to comprise a similarly small fraction of overall new infections. 

gkorstrom@biv.com

@GlenKorstrom