B.C. health officials reported 949 people in hospital with COVID-19 on Wednesday, including 136 in intensive care, as the province recorded 21 more deaths from the disease and 2,086 new cases.
The new numbers represent 36 fewer patients hospitalized with COVID-19 within the last 24 hours, as well as eight fewer in the ICU.
Overall hospitalizations, which typically lag behind spikes and dips in new cases, are up by six per cent from last Wednesday, when 895 people were in hospital with the disease.
Due to a data reporting change introduced Jan. 14, month to month hospitalization comparisons won't be available again until Feb. 14.
The number of patients in intensive care is up by about 18 per cent from 115 a week ago and up by 106 per cent from a month ago when 66 people were in the ICU.
Experts say hospitalizations are a more accurate barometer of the disease's impact, as new case numbers in B.C. are likely much higher than reported, now that the province has hit its testing limit because of the Omicron surge.
COVID-19 waves in British Columbia
As of Wednesday, 22.4 per cent of COVID-19 tests in B.C. are coming back positive, according to the province's COVID-19 dashboard.
As of Thursday, the COVID-19 testing site at the UBC Life Sciences Centre will be closed. Vancouver Coastal Health says that particular site was established as a temporary testing location in December to support other Vancouver-based sites.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said that anything above a five per cent test-positivity rate indicates a concerning level of community transmission.
There are currently 30,058 recorded active cases of people infected with the novel coronavirus in B.C.
The provincial death toll from COVID-19 is now 2,575 lives lost out of 316,873 confirmed cases to date.
Deaths per day due to COVID-19 in B.C., daily total and rolling average
There are a total of 61 active outbreaks in assisted living, long-term, and acute care facilities.
Acute care outbreaks include:
Surrey Memorial Hospital.
Abbotsford Regional Hospital.
Langley Memorial Hospital.
Peace Arch Hospital.
Kelowna General Hospital.
Royal Jubilee Hospital.
Victoria General Hospital.
COVID-19 infections in B.C. by vaccination status, adjusted by population and age
As of Wednesday, 89.7 per cent of those five and older in B.C. had received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 83.6 per cent a second dose.
From Jan. 18 to 24, people who were not fully vaccinated accounted for 28.2 per cent of cases and from Jan. 11 to 24, they accounted for 29.9 per cent of hospitalizations, according to the province.
A total of two million people have received a booster shot to date.
Daily COVID-19 vaccination progress in B.C.
Rapid tests for child-care centres
Staff in government-funded child-care centres are soon expected to have access to rapid antigen tests provided by the
The Children's Ministry says up to 250,000 tests will be sent to government-funded child-care facilities throughout the province for use by employees with symptoms of COVID-19.
It says the Health Ministry and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry are directing how rapid antigen tests are best used as part of the province's pandemic response.
The Children's Ministry says additional information about when the tests are expected to arrive will be provided to child-care facilities in the coming days as logistics are confirmed.
Henry is scheduled to join an online panel of public health experts on Wednesday evening to help child-care professionals and parents better understand updated guidance for children as hospitalization rates rise due to the Omicron variant.
Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix have been encouraging more parents to get children between five and 11 years of age vaccinated to prevent illness.
Vaccine card program extended
B.C.'s vaccine card program to access non-essential indoor spaces, including restaurants, bars and gyms, has been extended until June 30.
The program, which first came into effect on Sept. 13, 2021, was set to expire on Jan. 31. At least one dose of vaccine was required to access non-essential settings until Oct. 24, when a second dose was also required.
The system, which applies to all those over 12 seeking to access those settings, works via a QR code that, when scanned, shows the user's proof of vaccination.
Henry announced the program's extension on Tuesday, saying that cases are declining in the community but hospitalizations continue to rise amid the fifth wave of the pandemic.
"The vaccine card program is specifically designed to address and mitigate those risks that allow us to keep certain businesses and activities open," Henry said.
"As we move through this period, it will, I expect, no longer be necessary. But right now, it is one of those important tools that we have," she added.
Henry also announced that youth sports tournaments will resume on Feb. 1 as more children in the province are vaccinated.