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B.C. COVID-19 hospitalizations fall to seven-week low

44 more people died while infected with COVID-19 in the week up to May 28
Getty covid test - Catherine Falls Commercial
A professional administers a COVID-19 test

Various metrics show that while the COVID-19 pandemic in B.C. has been on the decline through May, the disease remains widespread in the community. 

The 421 people now hospitalized with COVID-19 is the lowest total since April 14, when there were 364 such people. Of those, 41 are sick enough to be in intensive care units  (ICU) – the fewest since May 5, when there were 39 such patients. 

While declines are good news, one year ago today, there were 246 COVID-19 patients in B.C. hospitals. Data crunchers back then had a more limited way of counting COVID-19 than they do today. Current counts include anyone who entered hospital for another reason and then incidentally tested positive for COVID-19. It also includes those patients who normally reside in other provinces and people who have gone longer than 10 days after first feeling symptoms. 

Politicians have recently taken to playing down the seriousness of the pandemic in the province. 

"The pandemic is waning," Horgan said May 27 at the Western premiers' conference. "It's becoming endemic."

Nonetheless, the BC Centre for Disease Control calculated that for the week that ended May 28, 44 people in B.C. had died while infected with COVID-19. This is up by two from the week that ended May 21, and it includes anyone who tested positive for COVID-19 within 30 days and then died. That calculation may include people who tested positive and then died in car accidents.

The B.C. government's process is to include those deaths initially, and then have its Vital Statistics Agency determine which deaths were not COVID-19-related, and remove them from the total.

As has been the case in each weekly update since the government shifted to only providing data once per week, the presumed COVID-19 death toll has risen by more than the number of new COVID-19 deaths. That is the opposite of what Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said would happen when she unveiled the new system in early April. B.C.'s COVID-19 death toll rose by 58 in the week that ended May 28, despite 44 new deaths reported. 

The BC CDC detected 1,163 new COVID-19 infections in the week that ended May 28. That is the lowest weekly total since the province shifted to weekly updates, on April 7.

Data for new infections, however, has long been widely dismissed, and even Henry earlier this year called the information "not accurate." This is because in December she started telling people who were vaccinated and had mild symptoms to not get tested and to simply self-isolate. She said at the time that this was to increase testing capacity for those with more serious symptoms and those who are more vulnerable.

Other good news is that the positive-test rate has also fallen to the lowest level since weekly updates launched. Given that in the week that ended May 28, the BC CDC conducted 20,182 tests and found 1,163 new infections, that works out to a 5.76 per cent positive-test rate.