Number of COVID-19 patients in BC ICU hits 16-week high

New suspected COVID-19 deaths in the province fell to 21 from 30 a week ago

Serious COVID-19 infections rose in BC over the past week, with 37 people now sick enough to be treated in intensive care units (ICUs), according to provincial data released this afternoon.

That’s the highest number of COVID-19 patients in BC’s intensive care units since August 4, when there were 38. The peak number of COVID-19 patients in BC ICUs was 178 on April 29, 2021.

The number of people infected with COVID-19 in BC hospitals remained unchanged at 328 to date. The peak for COVID-19 hospitalizations in BC was on January 31, when 1,048 such people moved into hospital beds. The province has a total of 11,582 hospital beds, including what are known as overstress beds, which can strain the system as they require additional resources.

BC’s tally for COVID-19 hospitalized patients includes those who are hospitalized for non-COVID-19 reasons and who have tested positive for COVID-19 by chance. BC provincial health commissioner Bonnie Henry said earlier this year that about half of the hospital patients then counted as having COVID-19 were those “incidental” cases. She has said incidental cases of COVID-19 are far less common among those in intensive care units.

The high number of COVID-19 infected people in intensive care is worrying as it could lead to further deaths.

The number of those in BC who died from COVID-19 in the week ended November 19 fell to 21 from 30 the previous week.

The province’s method of calculating COVID-19 deaths is considered unreliable because it includes all people who have died after officially testing positive for COVID-19 within the last month – a process that could include people who die in car accidents. The province also starts its countdown for this 30-day window when a person first tests positive for COVID-19 and does not reset that clock for infections detected later.

Henry said in April when she introduced this new counting method 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 death toll. This process would mean that the total number of COVID-19 deaths would increase by less than the number of new weekly deaths – the opposite of what is happening.

BC’s province’s total COVID-19 deaths since the first death was officially announced on March 9, 2020 is now 4,642, or 35 more than a week ago, although only 21 new deaths were recorded.

Glacier Media asked BC’s Department of Health about the persistent inequality, but couldn’t explain why it persists. It has been said that the data “may be incomplete”.

BC’s data for new infections is widely considered inaccurate because most people who contract COVID-19 do not contact BC health officials. Henry late last year urged vaccinated people with mild COVID-19 symptoms to simply self-isolate and not get tested. Their intention was to free up staff time at the testing centers, who then had to endure hours of waiting.

Official COVID-19 testing in BC is also a shadow of what it used to be. In the week ended November 19, there were 6,637 official tests. Two months ago there were more than 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.

Nonetheless, BC recorded 498 new COVID-19 infections — 11 more than the 487 new cases detected a week ago — for a total of 389,479 since the first was detected in late January 2020.

Data discrepancies were consistent across government data.

Despite 498 newly recorded infections, the province increased its number for the total infections in the pandemic so far by 495.

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

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