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B.C. COVID-19 trends stabilize

Of 349 people in hospital with COVID-19, 35 are sick enough to be in ICUs
Many COVID-19 patients have been cared for at Burnaby Hospital

The spread and severity of COVID-19 in B.C. has largely stabilized, according to partial data that the provincial government released today. 

Normally, the province updates its COVID-19 dashboard on Thursdays but no full update will come today, B.C.'s Ministry of Health told Glacier Media in an email. 

Most metrics tracking the disease that spawned a global pandemic are range-bound in B.C. 

The province says that as of today there are 349 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in B.C. hospitals. That is down from 374 one week ago but up from 328 on November 24. 

Of those, 35 of those sick enough to be in intensive care units (ICUs). That is up from 31 one week ago, and down from 38 on Dec. 2.

Another 22 people tested positive for the disease within 30 days of Dec. 17 and then died. One week ago, the province said 27 people had died from COVID-19, while the week before that the total was 17.

The province's process for counting COVID-19 deaths has been viewed as unreliable because the province's methodology could include people who tested positive for COVID-19 and then died in car accidents. The province also starts its countdown for that 30-day window when a person first tests positive for COVID-19, and it does not reset that clock for subsequent detected infections, further muddying which deaths were genuinely caused by COVID-19.

The province did not release an updated death toll for the entire pandemic. 

Last week, the province said it had counted 4,760 COVID-19-related deaths throughout the pandemic. However, as has been the case every week since April, when the province changed its system for counting deaths, the province's updated tally for total COVID-19 deaths rose by more than the number of new deaths in a week. As such it is not a given that the province's COVID-19 death toll will be 4,782 deaths when that figure is released tomorrow. 

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said in April that after new deaths are announced, the province's Vital Statistics Agency would later determine that some deaths were not due to COVID-19, and that it would remove those deaths from the province's overall death toll. That process would mean that the overall COVID-19 death toll would be rising by less than the number of new weekly deaths – the opposite of what has been happening.

Glacier Media in past weeks has asked B.C.'s Ministry of Health about the continuing disparity but it has not been able to explain why this keeps happening. It has said that data "may be incomplete." 

The B.C. government today said that there have been 609 known new COVID-19 infections up until Dec. 17.

B.C.'s data for new infections is largely seen as inaccurate because most people who contract COVID-19 do not contact B.C. health authorities. Henry late last year told vaccinated people who have mild COVID-19 symptoms to simply self-isolate and not get tested. Her intent was to free up staff time at testing centres, which then endured hours-long line-ups.

Official COVID-19 testing in B.C. is also a shadow of what it once was. There were 7,198 tests in the week up to Dec. 10. Back in April, there were weeks where health officials conducted more than 29,000 official tests. 

The province did not release data for how many official COVID-19 tests were conducted in the week up to Dec. 17, but that data is likely to come tomorrow. •