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COVID-19 hospitalizations in B.C. fall to new multi-month low

Omicron variant has yet to appear in B.C., say health officials.
COVID vaccination.- getty - andriy onufriyenko
A woman gets vaccinated to protect herself from COVID-19

COVID-19 infections serious enough to require hospitalization continued to trend lower, and hit 291 on November 26.

The last time fewer COVID-19 patients were in B.C. hospitals was September 15, when there were 288 such individuals. Of those in hospital, 115 are in intensive care units (ICUs).

The six new COVID-19 deaths in the province in the past day underscore how dangerous the disease can be, as a total of 2,322 people have died in B.C. from the disease since the first such death in Canada was recorded on March 9, 2020, at North Vancouver's Lynn Valley Care Centre.

The new deaths include:
• three in Fraser Health;
• two in Vancouver Coastal Health; and
• one in Northern Health.

New cases have fallen back below 400, to 341, after 424 new infections were recorded yesterday. Every other day this week has had new infections below the 400 threshold. 

Fewer new infections has helped push down the number of people actively battling the disease to 3,035. 

Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Bonnie Henry released a joint statement this afternoon to assuage fears of a new COVID-19 variant dubbed Omicron, which has spread very quickly in South Africa, has about 30 genetic mutations from the original COVID-19 virus, and scientists fear may have some resistance to vaccines. 

"At this time, there is no evidence that this variant has been introduced into British Columbia," Dix and Henry said. "The BC Centre for Disease Control's public health lab has sequenced over 90,000 virus isolates in B.C. and will continue to use whole genome sequencing to monitor for all variants circulating in B.C., including this new VOC Omicron."

The new cases include:
• 100 in Fraser Health;
• 65 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
• 77 in Interior Health;
• 31 in Northern Health; and
• 68 in Island Health.

The active cases include:
• 1,071 in Fraser Health;
• 536 in Vancouver Coastal Health;
• 593 in Interior Health;
• 381 in Northern Health;
• 448 in Island Health; and
• six people who normally live outside B.C.

Most new infections and hospitalizations are among the small slice of B.C.'s population that is unvaccinated. 

Between November 18 and November 24, people not fully vaccinated accounted for 59.2% of new cases, while between November 11 and November 24 those individuals were responsible for 68.4% of hospitalizations, according to government data. 

This is happening despite the vast majority of British Columbians being fully vaccinated. 

Of the 4,219,790 British Columbians who have received at least one dose of vaccine, 4,060,193, or 96.2, are fully vaccinated with two doses. 

Another 1,691 British Columbians received their first vaccination in the past day, while 3,465 others received needed second doses.

The province's math shows that this is 91% of the eligible population having at least one dose of vaccine, while 87.6% of the population has had two doses.

The B.C. government estimated in July that the province's total population is 5,147,712, so Glacier Media's calculation is that 82% of B.C.'s total population has had at least one dose of vaccine, and 78.8% of the province's total population has had two doses. 

Older people often endure more serious bouts of COVID-19, which is why the government has required those who work in seniors' homes and the health-care sector to be fully vaccinated.

Two health-care facility outbreaks have newly been declared over: at Queens Park Care Centre in New Westminster, and at Dufferin Care Centre in Coquitlam. This leaves the province with eight active outbreaks at seniors' homes and health-care facilities. •