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COVID-19 patients in B.C. ICUs highest since October

B.C. acute-care wards are at 78.1% occupancy – far below pre-pandemic levels.
COVID hospital Getty Images - Travel Couples
A health-care worker assists a hospital patient who has COVID-19

The number of COVID-19 patients in B.C. hospitals today declined from yesterday's record high by two to 985.

Of those, 144 such patients are in intensive care units (ICUs), which is the highest number since Oct. 29. The record number of COVID-19 patients in B.C. ICUs is 178, on April 29.

The most recent data for B.C. ICU occupancy was from Jan. 19, when 471 of B.C.'s 728 ICU beds were filled. 

Health Minister Adrian Dix Tuesday said that about 78.1 per cent, or 9,050 of B.C.'s 11,582 acute-care beds were occupied last week. He did not reference ICU occupancy data in Tuesday's press conference. He noted that pre-pandemic, B.C.'s hospitals were at about 103.5 per cent occupied, and that postponed surgeries have been creating some extra space. 

Between Jan. 16 and Jan. 22, for example, health officials across the province postponed 790 non-urgent scheduled surgeries, he said. 

Dix confirmed that a field hospital at the Vancouver Convention Centre will be ready and available if needed, but "it's not the beds, or the space," he said. "It's the people that is the most significant thing [in providing quality health-care to all who need it]."

Concern over the availability of health-care workers has ramped up, he said, given that between Jan. 17 and Jan. 23, at least 17,954 workers called in sick.

In the week up until today, B.C. had averaged nine COVID-19 deaths per day. In the past 24 hours, health officials only know of one such death. 

Testing centres across B.C. were overwhelmed in December as health officials were diagnosing record-high numbers of new cases. As such, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told vaccinated people with mild illnesses to self-isolate and not get tested. Some people who went to testing centres were also sent away without take-home tests if they did not meet certain criteria. As a result, the province's daily new case counts are seen by many as unreliable.

Health officials, however, detected 1,446 new infections in the past 24 hours, which raises the province's number of known active infections by 646 to 32,468, as new infections outpaced recoveries. The government tends to consider people as recovered if they have gone 10 days after first exhibiting symptoms. Many people deemed recovered have lingering health conditions. 

Henry stressed that unvaccinated people and elderly individuals are at high risk of serious illness. 

The number of health-care facilities and seniors' homes that have active outbreak fell for the first time in weeks, by one to 63. There were no new outbreaks at those facilities, and the outbreak at Kopernik Lodge in Vancouver has been declared over.

Provincial data show 4,467,392 B.C. residents have had at least one dose of vaccine, while 93.3 per cent of those, or 4,167,276, are considered fully vaccinated with two doses. There were 37,166 people given booster, or third, doses of vaccine in the past day, for a total of 1,912,122.

The B.C. government last year estimated that the province's total population is 5,147,712. Hence, Glacier Media's calculation is that 86.7 per cent of B.C.'s total population has had at least one dose of vaccine, and almost 81 per cent of the province's total population has had two doses.  More than 37.1 per cent have had their booster doses.