New Caledonia

B.C. COVID-19 hospitalizations fall amid period of ‘relative ease’

According to the most recent weekly update from the BC Centre for Disease Control, COVID-19 hospitalizations in British Columbia are once again on the decline (BCCDC).

According to the data, which was released on May 19, the number of people in hospitals with COVID-19 dropped to 540 across the province, a decrease of 9% or 56 patients from the previous week. Patients in critical care have also decreased from 54 last week to 49 this week.

Last week’s hospitalizations were the highest since February 25, when the Omicron variant sent 599 people to the hospital.

According to the independent B.C. COVID-19 Modelling Group, the drop in cases, hospitalizations, and even wastewater data indicates that the second Omicron wave — one dominated by the Omicron BA.2 subvariant — is on the decline.

“The BA.2 wave appears to have peaked or is nearing its peak in British Columbia and across Canada,” the group wrote on May 18.

Evidence of this decline can be found in all provinces across the country, as COVID-19 seven-day moving averages fall from coast to coast (Canada’s three territories have seen slight increases in case count).

The number of new SARS-CoV-2 virus deaths tends to lag hospitalizations. In British Columbia, they have also implemented a delayed reporting period. According to the most recent data, 59 people died in the week ending May 14, a slight increase from the first week of May.

All deaths are counted if the person tested positive for the virus within the previous 30 days and then died, which includes car accidents.

When the province changed the way, it counts COVID-19 deaths in April, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the discrepancy would be corrected with B.C.’s Vital Statistics Agency at a later date.

While reported new COVID-19 cases have been an inaccurate measure of the pandemic’s progression since the Omicron variant was discovered in December, BCCDC data shows a downward trend in recent weeks.

New weekly cases fell by nearly a third between the last week of April and the first week of May.

During the same time, health officials performed between 24,000 and 27,000 tests per week, with a positivity rate that has continued to fall throughout May.

The second Omicron wave (or sixth since the pandemic began) resulted in roughly half the number of cases seen in British Columbia during the variant’s initial wave in January and February.

Sally Otto, a UBC evolutionary biologist and mathematical modeller who also works with the modelling group, said she wouldn’t expect a COVID-19-free summer.

Last week, Henry predicted that British Columbia would experience “relative ease” for the foreseeable future. That, however, will not last, she added.

“We need to be prepared for a surge in the fall,” Henry explained.

Otto is optimistic as well but warns of a number of Omicron sub-variants spreading around the world, including BA.2.21 and BA.2.12.1 in Canada and the United States, as well as BA.4 and BA.5 driving spikes in South Africa.

“We have to be prepared,” Otto said, “because there’s a chance, we’ll get a more transmittable, uglier version.”