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B.C. COVID-19 hospitalizations reach new five-month high

B.C.'s existing and emergency hospital beds are 80.2% occupied.
Bonnie Henry hands
B.C.'s provincial health officer Bonnie Henry gestures during an October 19 press conference

Serious COVID-19 infections across B.C. have prompted more people battling the disease to need hospital beds than at any time since May 14, more than five months ago.

There are now 382 COVID-19 patients in B.C. hospitals that the province considers to be in an infectious stage. Provincial health officer Bonnie Henry said about 200 others are also in hospital because they need help recovering, but are no longer deemed to be infectious. That count of 200 also includes those who went into hospital for other reasons, and contracted COVID-19 on-site.

The province's general rule for counting COVID-19 hospital patients is to limit the number to those who are infectious, with that meaning those who have not yet gone 10 days after first feeling symptoms. Henry said this is not a hard and fast rule, and that some people could be included in that count up to 30 days after first feeling symptoms depending on the severity of their illness. 

Of the 382 people considered to be COVID-19 patients in B.C. hospitals, 146 are in intensive care units (ICU).

B.C. has 11,571 total hospital beds, including beds that existed pre-pandemic, dubbed "base" beds, and new emergency beds, called "surge" beds. Surge beds can be a particular burden on the system because they require additional staff resources. 

Health Minister Adrian Dix said October 19 that of that total bed count, about 80.2%, or "roughly 9,280" are occupied. Pre-pandemic, B.C. hospitals were more than 103% occupied. The decline in overall occupancy is because of postponed surgeries. 

Dix also broke down occupancy in ICUs. The province has 510 base ICU beds, and 218 surge ICU beds, for a total of 728 ICU beds. Of those, 455 base ICU beds are occupied, and 35 surge ICU beds are occupied for a total ICU occupancy of 67.3%.

Province-wide figures, however, mask hospital-bed shortages in some parts of the province – particularly the very hard hit Northern Health region. 

Dix said that since September 5, 65 hospitalized Northern Health residents have had to be transferred to other parts of the province. That region is a COVID-19 hotspot largely because it has lower vaccination rates than other parts of the province.

Five more people have lost their lives to COVID-19 in the past day, raising the province's pandemic death toll to 2,086.

Of the new deaths, two were in Fraser Health, two were in Northern Health, and one was in Island Health.

To help limit outbreaks at health-care facilities, the B.C. government has mandated that all workers in those premises be vaccinated. Dix said that of the 129,924 workers in health-care settings across the province, 121,048, or more than 93% are fully vaccinated. Another 3,364, or almost 2.6%, are partially vaccinated, while 5,512, or 4.2%, are unvaccinated. 

He then broke down the proportion of unvaccinated staff by health region, as being:
• 2% in Fraser Health;
• 7% in Interior Health;
• 6% in Northern Health;
• 3% in the Provincial Health Services Authority;
• 3% in Vancouver Coastal Health; and
• 5% in the Vancouver Island Health Authority.

Vaccinations in the general population have slowed as the vast majority of people are already vaccinated.

Across B.C., 89.2% of eligible adults older than 12 have had at least one dose of vaccine, with 83.5% of eligible people having had two doses, according to the B.C. government.

Of the 4,136,000 B.C. residents who have received one dose of vaccine since mid-December, 2020, 93.6%, or 3,870,709, are fully vaccinated, with two doses. Dix said that about 60,000 residents, who are either immunocompromised or who live in seniors' living facilities, have received three doses of vaccine.

The B.C. government estimated in July that the province's total population is 5,147,712, so Glacier Media's calculation is that more than 80.3% of B.C.'s total population has had at least one dose of vaccine, and nearly 75.2% of the province's total population has had two doses.

The small slice of the population that is not vaccinated is responsible for the lion's share of cases, hospitalizations and deaths. 

Dix tweeted late afternoon on October 19 that 87% of the 146 people in B.C.'s ICUs are not fully vaccinated. No one younger than 40 years old who is even partially vaccinated is in an ICU in B.C. There are, however, 23 people younger than 40 years old who are in B.C. ICUs.

Some other stats that back that up that this is what Dix has called the "pandemic of the unvaccinated" include that, when adjusted for age, in the week up to October 17, there were 281.7 people newly infected for each 100,000 unvaccinated British Columbians. In that same time period, there were only 81.2 people newly infected for each 100,000 partially vaccinated British Columbians, and only 31.1 people newly infected for each 100,000 fully vaccinated British Columbians. 

New cases continue to rack up, with 560 cases identified in the past 24 hours. The number of those with active infections has fallen by four, to 4,913 – the lowest number since August 13.

Glacier Media's broke down the 560 new infections by health region, for each 10,000 residents (with total new cases in brackets):
• 1.2 in Fraser Health (208);
• 0.6 in Vancouver Coastal Health (80);
• 1.1 in Interior Health (79);
• 4.4 in Northern Health (131); and
• 0.7 in Island Health (61).

There was one new infections in a person who normally does not reside in Canada.

The result by health region, for the 4,913 people fighting active infections, for each 10,000 residents (with total new cases in brackets) is:
• 11.4 in Fraser Health (2,052);
•  5.7 in Vancouver Coastal Health (717);
•  10.4 in Interior Health (772);
•  26.6 in Northern Health (797); and
•  6.1 in Island Health (516).

There are 59 active infections in the province in people who normally reside outside B.C. 

One new outbreak at a seniors' living facility is at the Emerald at Elm Village in Surrey. No existing outbreaks at health-care facilities have been declared over. This means that B.C. now has 23 such outbreaks. •