After early summer months in which COVID-19 infections seemed to be decreasing, the latest indicators point to a renewed rise in cases of the virus on the North Shore.
Chief among these are both a rise in hospitalizations in Vancouver Coastal Health and a recent jump in levels of the virus detected at the North Shore sewage treatment plant.
Viral loads quadruple at sewage plant
According to BC’s Centre for Disease Control, “over the past two weeks, viral loads at Lions Gate (sewage treatment plant) appear to have increased by 300 per cent” as of July 9. The centre cautioned that was based on limited data.
But it is consistent with the trend of increased amounts of the viral markers being detected at sewage plants around the Lower Mainland. Viral loads at sewage plants serving Vancouver, Richmond and the Surrey, Burnaby and Tri-Cities area have all jumped between 60 and 90 per cent in recent weeks.
“This is consistent with increased incidence of COVID-19 in Metro Vancouver,” according to the BCCDC.
The latest measurement on July 4 showed 81,489 viral parts per litre at the Lions Gate plant, compared to 28,997 viral parts per litre on June 13 and 12,013 parts per litre on June 8.
The data from the local sewage treatment plants is important as it provides a rough measure of overall community infection levels, although it doesn’t provide information about numbers of individual cases.
Most people test for COVID-19 using rapid antigen tests at home, which are not counted in official PCR test results.
Official case counts rising
Official statistics – which measure a small subset of the most vulnerable people with COVID-19 – have also risen on the North Shore in recent weeks.
There were 41 new cases measured by PCR tests for the week ending July 9 – 34 in North Vancouver and seven in West Vancouver. That’s up from the 18 new cases measured between June 12 and 18, and similar to the 44 cases measured between June 5 and June 11.
Hospitalizations rise in VCH
COVID hospitalizations in Vancouver Coastal Health – which also includes hospitals in Vancouver, Richmond, the Sunshine Coast and Sea to Sky Corridor – are also on the rise again this week, according to BCCDC. There were 102 people with COVID in hospital as of July 14, up from 75 people on June 23.
Ten of those people were in critical care.
There were also three new COVID-19-related deaths in the past week in VCH. The majority of deaths continue to be in people over 80, according to the BCCDC, although there have also been a smaller number of COVID-19 deaths among those between 60 and 79. The biggest group of people in hospital with COVID-19 are those over 60 years old.
Province-wide, there are 426 people with COVID-19 in B.C. hospitals, up 57 from one week ago and the highest number since May 26, according to BCCDC data.
According to the BCCDC, the newest and more transmissible Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5 now make up most new infections, including about 70 per cent of cases in VCH.
Vax for youngest kids approved
Vaccination rates among both adults and children on the North Shore haven’t budged for months.
Between 92 and 96 per cent of adults on the North Shore have had two doses of vaccine, and between 68 and 72 per cent have received one booster shot.
Vaccination rates for children stalled much lower. Between 59 and 69 per cent of children five to 11 on the North Shore have received two doses of COVID vaccine.
On Thursday, Health Canada approved the first COVID-19 vaccination for children between six months to five years of age.
Health Minister Adrian Dix is encouraging parents to register their children so they are invited to book an appointment beginning on Aug. 2. There are about 208,000 eligible babies and children in B.C. in that age category.
The province, meanwhile, is encouraging most adults to wait until September for a fourth booster dose of the vaccine. That has been available to people with compromised immune systems and those over 70.