COVID in B.C.: Cases, hospitalizations, deaths creep up as fall begins

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New figures released Thursday from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control indicates what many may already suspect from personal experience in recent weeks: COVID-19 cases are back on the rise as fall looms.

The Centre says cases, hospitalizations and deaths all increased in the four weeks covered by the figures, ending Sept. 16. Admissions to critical care remained stable.

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Confirmed cases nearly doubled over the four-week span, from 366 in the first week to 628 in the final week. Weekly hospitalizations fluctuated between 159 and 178, with that highest figure registered in the latest reporting week.

The weekly death toll rose from 10 the first week to 22 most recently. Those are counted based on a positive COVID-19 lab test within 30 days before death, with slightly less than half historically being attributed to COVID as the direct cause of death.

Lab testing rates are also increasing, with 39 per 100,000 population in the first week rising to 59 per 100,000 in the latest week. The rate of positives among those tests has been between about 16 and 21 per cent over the four-week span.

The main variants of the novel coronavirus circulating are EG. 5 and XBB. 1.16, with EG. 5 showing up in about a third of positive tests. A new Omicron variant known as BA. 2.86 has shown up and is being monitored, though there are only three confirmed cases so far in B.C.

The presence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is increasing in wastewater tests in Metro Vancouver, Victoria, Comox and Kelowna.

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The Centre for Disease Control says over the four weeks from Aug. 20 to Sept. 16, there were six COVID-19 outbreaks in acute-care facilities and two in long-term care.

The provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, said earlier this month that COVID numbers in general remain low but are on a steady climb. She said B.C. health officials are discussing the possibility of ramping up masking guidelines to slow the spread as fall begins.

Health Canada is in the process of reviewing updated vaccines from several makers, and last week gave the green light to Moderna’s reformulated vaccine aimed at fighting the newest variants. Others still awaiting approval are from Pfizer-BioNTech and Novavax.

B.C. plans to release a vaccine plan for any of the approved vaccines later this month, and flu shots will be available to anyone who wants to get both at the same time.

The next data report is due on Oct. 5.

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