British Columbia on Wednesday reported a record 2,944 new cases of COVID-19 along with five more deaths since December 24th.
The figures are likely to underestimate the actual number of new cases in the province, with several PCR test sites in the lower mainland closed due to extreme cold, and with officials acknowledging that the test system had reached its capacity.
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There were at least 16,041 active cases throughout the province.
Of the newly confirmed cases, 1,591 were in the Fraser Health region, 571 were in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 374 were in the Interior Health region, 99 were in the Northern Health region and 390 were in the Island Health region.
In the midst of the test challenges, the province’s health officer said Dr. Bonnie Henry that she could not give an estimate of the true number of cases in BC, but that officials have known “all the time” that testing underscores the real number in society.
“On average, there are probably three to four times the number of people who really have covid than what is in our monitoring numbers on a daily basis,” she said, adding that the daily data were still useful for a variety of reasons.
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“The rolling seven-day average helps us understand trends over time … we look at things like the test rate in different communities and different parts of the province, and by age we look at the percentage positive in our tests in the different places.”
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Health Minister Adrian Dix said the seven-day average for test positivity had risen to nearly 14.5 and was consistent across large parts of the province.
There were 193 active cases in the hospital, of which 66 were on critical or intensive care. Henry said a positive remark was that people who were fully vaccinated did not end up in the hospital until further notice. But she said BC was following closely in Quebec, which has seen the number of admissions increase in recent days.
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More than 4.38 million British Colombians, 88 per cent of those eligible and 85.1 per cent of BC’s population, have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Of those, more than 4.12 million people, 82.8 percent of those eligible, and 80.2 percent of BC’s population have received two doses.
A further 858,774 people, 18.5 percent of those eligible and 16.6 percent of BC’s population have received a booster dose.
People who were not fully vaccinated accounted for 15.9 percent of cases during the past week and 57.6 percent of admissions during the past two weeks.
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Henry said the Omicron variant’s incubation period of about three days, half of previous variants, had overwhelmed BC’s ability to contact tracks.
“People get infected with a much smaller dose of the virus and much faster, and they pass it on to others, often before they realize they are capable of transmitting it,” Henry said.
Anyone with symptoms should assume they have the virus and take measures to avoid passing it on, including wearing masks and avoiding assemblies, she said.
Close contacts with people who have tested positive do not need to isolate themselves if they are fully vaccinated, she added, but should monitor for symptoms for two weeks and avoid assemblies, especially with vulnerable people.
She also encouraged people in higher risk areas to consider higher quality masks, such as N95 masks or surgical masks, or to double mask.
The province has registered a total of 2,419 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
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