A record 854 COVID-19 patients are now filling B.C.'s hospital beds, with 112 of those in intensive care units (ICUs).
The total number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized in B.C. is 35 more than yesterday, and it follows the government's decision last week to broaden the categories of COVID-19 patients that are counted.
The counts since Jan. 14 include those who caught COVID-19 while already in hospital, people who entered hospital for COVID-19 and are no longer deemed infectious, and COVID-19 patients in B.C. hospitals who normally reside outside the province.
Hospital occupancy is an important metric because Health Minister Adrian Dix and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry have been warning that if people let down their guard against COVID-19, B.C. hospitals could be overwhelmed.
Dix gave a partial update on the total number of people now in B.C. hospitals for all causes.
He said that of B.C.'s 9,229 acute-care beds that existed pre-pandemic, and do not require extra staff resources, 8,778 are filled. He calls those beds "base beds."
There are 2,353 other acute-care beds that were added during the pandemic or require extra staff resources. These beds are called "surge beds." Of those, 570 are occupied, Dix said.
That adds up to 9,348 patients filling all 11,582 B.C. acute-care beds, for a 80.7% occupancy rate. One week ago, 9,401 of those beds were filled, for a 81.2% occupancy rate.
Dix said that in a pre-pandemic January, B.C. hospitals would have a capacity that surpassed 100%.
He did not provide an update of how many people are in B.C.'s 510 base ICU beds, nor how many are in B.C.'s 218 surge ICU beds.
Henry, today, stressed that vaccines help deter illness and hospitalization but then took time to also underscore that older people are the most vulnerable.
"Age remains the single most important risk factor for having severe illness with COVID-19, and Omicron is no different," she said.
"Regardless of vaccine status, even with two doses on board, we know that people over age 70 have increased risk – partly this is because of our immune system not being as responsive as we get older."
That warning about how COVID-19 can ravage older individuals is concerning given that health-care facilities, seniors' care homes and retirement communities have increasingly been developing outbreaks.
B.C. has nine new such outbreaks in the past day, for a total of 53. That is a net total of three more than yesterday, and 52 more than the single outbreak at Lion's Gate Hospital one month ago, on December 17.
New outbreaks at those facilities include:
• CareLife Fleetwood in Surrey;
• Menno Hospital in Abbotsford;
• Buchanan Lodge in New Westminster;
• St. Michael's Centre in Burnaby;
• Eden Care Centre in Chilliwack;
• Village at Smith Creek in West Kelowna;
• Veterans Memorial Lodge in Victoria;
• Sunset Lodge in Victoria; and
• Sidney Care Home in Sidney.
Outbreaks newly declared over include:
• Eagle Ridge Hospital in Port Moody;
• The Oxford Senior Care Home in Abbotsford;
• Chartwell Crescent Gardens in Surrey;
• AgeCare Harmony Court in Burnaby;
• Selkirk Seniors Village in Victoria; and
• Selkirk Village Assisted Living in Victoria.
Henry also made clear that she does not envision the pandemic coming to an end any time soon – even after the rampant variant strain Omicron subsides.
"Something is going to come next," she said, indicating future mutations of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. "We're going to have to be living with some version of SARS-CoV-2 for the next foreseeable future."
Deaths from COVID-19 continue in B.C., with two known such fatalities in the past day. That raises B.C.'s pandemic death toll to 2,492.
Health officials' recent guidance to vaccinated individuals who have mild COVID-19 symptoms is to self-isolate and not get tested. That is to ensure that testing kits and staff are able to focus more on people with more severe symptoms. As a result, many doubt data for new cases and active cases is reliable.
Regardless, the official count is that health officials detected 2,032 new COVID-19 infections in the past day, raising the number of people actively infected to 37,224 – 1,239 more than yesterday.
Of the 301,121 known COVID-19 infections in the province since the first case was detected in January 2020, 258,417, or 85.8%, are deemed by the government to have recovered.
The B.C. government estimates that 89.3% of eligible British Columbians, older than five years, have had at least one vaccine shot, while 83.4% of that eligible population is fully vaccinated with two jabs.
Provincial data show 4,448,921 B.C. residents have had at least one dose of vaccine, while 93.4% of those, or 4,157,150, are considered fully vaccinated with two doses. There were 47,314 people given booster, or third, doses of vaccine in the past day, for a total of 1,591,505.
The B.C. government last year estimated that the province's total population is 5,147,712. Hence, Glacier Media's calculation is that 86.4% of B.C.'s total population has had at least one dose of vaccine, and 80.8% of the province's total population has had two doses. Another 30.9% have had their booster doses. •