B.C.'s COVID-19 death toll jumps by 16, to 1,801

Hospitalizations and ICU patient numbers hit multi-month highs

B.C. premier John Horgan removes his mask at an August 23 press conference | Photo: B.C. government

The recent surge in new and active COVID-19 cases keeps pushing up the number of serious enough infections to warrant hospital care, and has started to also increase deaths linked to the disease.

B.C.'s COVID-19 death toll has jumped by 16, compared with August 20, the B.C. government revealed August 23. B.C.'s death toll from COVID-19 has crossed the 1,800 threshold, with the total now at 1,801.

The B.C. government added a qualifier saying that the new death toll includes updated reporting of deaths since August 1 from the Interior Health region, but it was not clear how many deaths were outside the three-day period. The last time there were more than 16 COVID-19 deaths in B.C. in a three-day period was May 19 through 21, when there were 17 COVID-19 mortalities.

Government data irregularities are common, particularly in the number of non-British Columbians thought to have received a dose of vaccine. Those numbers have fallen in each of the past eight data updates, as those people are newly determined to be British Columbians, the B.C. government explained to Glacier Media on August 23.

Nonetheless, the spike in serious COVID-19 infections has continued, as 133 people are now in B.C. hospitals fighting the disease. That is four more than three days ago, and more than double the total as recently as August 6.

Of those hospitalized, 80 individuals are sick enough to be in intensive care units (ICUs) – quadruple the number of people who were in those units two weeks ago.

An elevated level of new infections is fuelling these trends.

Health officials detected 1,711 new cases of COVID-19 in the past three days, with that being a number far above what the government has been aiming to see. Those infections included 724 detected on August 21, 545 on August 22, and 442 in the past 24 hours. The province's positive-test rate has been hovering in the 4% to 6% range.

This rise in cases, hospitalizations, ICU patients and deaths is why officials announced August 23 that British Columbians, as of September 13, will have to show government-issued proof that they have had at least one dose of vaccine in order to be allowed to enter restaurants, concert venues, casinos, movie theatres, gyms and other non-essential establishments.

By October 24, British Columbians will have to show proof of two doses of vaccine to enter those spaces.

Business groups support the move.

"The B.C. vaccine card can provide certainty for businesses to operate safely, while providing an incentive to get vaccinated,” Greater Vancouver Board of Trade CEO Bridgitte Anderson said after the government's announcement.

The B.C. government already has a Health Gateway app that can connect to individuals' personal health information, and enables individuals to show proof of vaccination. Details on how British Columbians can get digital, or tangible, vaccine cards will be revealed in the next couple weeks, said provincial health officer Bonnie Henry. 

She added that the reason she is putting in place a health order requiring that B.C. residents show vaccine cards in order to enter non-essential venues is because unvaccinated people have a much higher propensity to catch COVID-19, and to have cases serious enough to need hospital care.

"Over the past month, and up until the end of last week, people who have not been fully vaccinated account for almost 90% of all of our cases, and over 93% of the hospitalizations," Henry said August 23.

"To put it in context, we have a rate of about 28 per 100,000 cases in people who are unvaccinated, compared to two per 100,000 in people who are fully vaccinated. What that tells us is that your risk is ten times higher if you've not been protected through vaccines."

Provincial data released following Henry's comments show that fully vaccinated individuals recently accounted for 13% of cases, and 11% of hospitalizations.

The cases identified between August 11 and 17 included:
• 2620 people who were unvaccinated (71%);
• 583 people who were partially vaccinated (16%); and
• 498 people who were fully vaccinated (13%).

Cases severe enough to involve hospitalization between August 10 and 16 included:
• 95 people who were unvaccinated (84%);
• six people who were partially vaccinated (5%); and
• 12 people who were fully vaccinated (11%).

Health officials provided 40,772 jabs of vaccine in arms in the past 24 hours. At an average of 13,591 doses in each of the past three days, the number of vaccine doses provided continues to trend downward. Of the newly provided doses, 9,720 went to unvaccinated people, while the remaining 31,052 went as needed second doses. 

Of the 3,856,248 B.C. residents who have received at least one dose of vaccine, more than 90%, or 3,473,215 are fully vaccinated. 

The B.C. government estimated in February that the province's total population is 5,147,712, so that means that 74.9% of B.C.'s total population has had at least one dose of vaccine, and nearly 67.5% of the province's total population has had two doses.

The government's math holds that 83.2% of the province's eligible population, aged 12 years and older, has been vaccinated at least once, with 74.9% of eligible people being fully vaccinated. 

Glacier Media crunched the numbers for how many of the 1,711 cases identified in the past three days were in each of the province's health regions. The result for the number of new infections for each 10,000 residents (with total new cases in brackets) was:
• 2.3 in Fraser Health (419);
• 2.3 in Vancouver Coastal Health (290);
• 10.4 in Interior Health (768);
• 3.3 in Northern Health (100); and
• 1.6 in Island Health (133).

One new case was a person who normally resides outside B.C.

The result by health region for the number of people fighting active infections for each 10,000 residents (with total new cases in brackets) was:
• 6.6 in Fraser Health (1,194);
• 9.8 in Vancouver Coastal Health (1,223);
• 26 in Interior Health (1,930);
• 9.9 in Northern Health (298); and
• 4.7 in Island Health (401).

An additional 10 people with active infections normally reside outside B.C.

Officials detected three new outbreaks at healthcare facilities, or seniors' homes, in the past three days. They are at:
• Peace Arch Hospital in White Rock;
• Sun Pointe Village in Kelowna; and
• Hardy View Lodge in Grand Forks.

The outbreak at Evergreen Baptist Care Society in White Rock has been declared over.

Another 10 outbreaks at seniors' homes, include:
• Heritage Village in Chilliwack;
• Nicola Meadows in Merritt;
• Village at Mill Creek (second floor) in Kelowna;
• Hawthorn Park in Kelowna;
• David Lloyd Jones long-term care home in Kelowna;
• KinVillage West Court in South Delta;
• Kootenay Street Village in Cranbrook;
• Cottonwoods Care Centre in Kelowna;
• Brookhaven Care Centre in West Kelowna; and
• Nelson Jubilee Manor in Nelson.

gkorstrom@biv.com

@GlenKorstrom