B.C. COVID-19 deaths fall

Province recorded 16 COVID-19 deaths in the week ended Sept. 24

A nurse speaks with a COVID-19 patient | Photo: Getty Images / FatCamera

While B.C.'s data collection to track the COVID-19 pandemic is widely seen as not fully accurate, some good news today is that the province's weekly count of COVID-19 deaths fell by six to 16.

The province has not reported a lower weekly death count since it started in April providing weekly updates instead of fresh data every weekday. The province used a different method to count deaths prior to switching to weekly updates, so it is not accurate to compare COVID-19 death data before and after early April.

Data for new COVID-19 deaths in B.C. now includes anyone who tested positive for COVID-19 within 30 days and then died – a calculation that could include people who tested positive and then died in car accidents.

While the trend of fewer COVID-19 deaths is good news, the province's data remains inconsistent. 

The government recorded 16 new COVID-19 deaths and it hiked its overall COVID-19 death toll by 30.

Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry in April said her new procedure for counting COVID-19 deaths would be to include all such deaths in counts for new deaths and in the overall death toll count.

She said that the province's Vital Statistics Agency would then determine that some deaths were not due to COVID-19 and that it would remove those deaths from the overall death toll. That process would mean that the death toll would be rising on a weekly basis by less than the number of new weekly deaths – the opposite of what is happening.

Glacier Media tried to ask Henry about this inconsistency yesterday at a press conference but she did not take the question. 

Glacier Media has asked the Ministry of Health why the death toll consistently rises more than the number of new deaths but has not received a satisfactory explanation. The ministry's most recent response was that the data "may be incomplete," but there has never been any updates to previously announced weekly death totals. 

New data from today also hold that 367 people with COVID-19 are in B.C. hospitals, up by 62 from one week ago. A large number of those, if not most, are people who are hospitalized for a different reason, and who simply caught in hospital the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19.

Of those with COVID-19 in hospitals, 30 are in intensive care units (ICUs), up by eight from one week ago.

Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix yesterday expressed concern that the COVID-19 pandemic could worsen in November, December and January. 

They expect that as many as 700 additional COVID-19 patients may need hospital care in the coming months. Their projections for the late fall include a surge in influenza cases that include 1,200 people needing hospital care.

To manage the number of beds available in hospitals, the province will attempt to have as many as 1,300 patients be cared for in communities, 

"Patients are being identified now for potential transfer to the community, reducing hospitalization, in case 500 to 800 beds are needed," Dix said.

He did not rule out returning to a strategy of cancelling non-urgent scheduled surgeries if the influenza and COVID-19 diseases cause enough people to need hospital beds, although that would be a last resort.

"We obviously want to avoid that," he said.

Other data released today included that there were 635 newly detected COVID-19 infections in the week up to September 24, down by two from one week earlier. 

Given that there were said to be 15,531 official tests, that works out to a 4.08-per-cent positive-test rate.

Data for new infections is widely dismissed. Even Henry, earlier this year, called the data for new cases "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.

The province no longer reports how many seniors' care homes have active outbreaks. •