Cases and wastewater both look like they are going up slightly. That might be noise, but given how COVID-19 levels are definitely going up in places near Canada *cough cough USA cough cough*, levels probably are going up.
Other Illnesses / Medical System
This article reports that Health Minister Dix says there used to be 9,200 base beds, which they boosted to 9,929, and that ALL of them are being used — a month before the predicted peak of the winter respiratory season. This article blames it on influenza, and public health sampling of respiratory diseases shows that there are more flu cases right now than COVID-19 (see graph below), but the flu levels are not insanely high compared to previous years. This BC CDC respiratory diseases outbreak briefing reporting on the week ending 2 Dec doesn’t say that any of the diseases are at particularly high levels.
I couldn’t find any graphs which compared pre-pandemic influenza levels to current levels, but this BC CDC Influenza Surveillance Report from week 49 in 2018 shows flu positivity at around 15%, while the BC CDC Viral Pathogens dashboard as of 15 Dec 2023 says that flu positivity for week 49 is 12.8%.
(This article talks about how bad it is in Alberta right now, if you want a comparison.)
So why is Dix saying that the hospitals are full right now, if respiratory diseases aren’t actually all that bad compared to previous years? I have several theories:
- The hospital capacity is sized for pre-COVID levels, and COVID-19 hospitalizations is enough to kick it over to critical. This seems unlikely, as there were only 182 people in hospital with COVID-19 on 7 December — only 1.8% of all the provincial hospital beds. Or, to look at it another way, it’s only a quarter of the beds that were added.
- The number in hospital with COVID has jumped enormously since the last data I have. This seems unlikely. While the province didn’t give out the number of COVID-19 patients in hospital this week, hospitalization lags cases, and cases have been relatively flat.
- The number in hospital with influenza is huge. That’s possible, but everything I have seen says that COVID-19 is a nastier disease than influenza, and the number of influenza cases appears (from the sampling graph above) to be currently only slightly higher than the number of COVID-19 cases.
- This year’s influenza is nastier than previous years. That’s possible. Below-below is a graph from the BC CDC Emergency Department Visits for Respiratory Illness dashboard as of 15 Dec of of the ED admissions for the past three seasons, and it does look like the respiratory season is happening earlier than last year, and has a relatively steep slope. It’s not nearly as steep as the previous two years’ winter peaks, however. (I’ve labelled the 2021/2022 Omicron period.)
- COVID-19 has caused an increase in all kinds of other medical issues, and that’s what’s hammering the system. THAT I can readily believe. There is a lot of research saying that COVID-19 increases your risk of other medical issues — cardiovascular issues, diabetes, schizophrenia and other psychoses, neurological issues, etc.
- It’s not “bad” yet: BC hasn’t started taking extreme measures like huge overtime, rescheduling of elective surgeries, etc. This is kind of normal use-all-you-got as they try to clear the backlog of elective surgeries.
This article reports that about 23% of British Columbians have gotten a shot this fall, with 50.5% of people over 80 years old — but only 8.3% of people who are 18-29 years old.
As of 14 Dec, the BC CDC situation report says that in the week ending on 9 Dec there were: +413 reported cases, +114 hospital admissions, +30 ICU admissions, and +21 thirty-day all-cause deaths*.
In the week ending 2 Dec, they now report that there were +355 reported cases, +137 hospital admissions, +20 ICU admissions, and +38 thirty-day all-cause deaths*.
For comparison, in the previous update, they reported that in the week ending on 2 Dec there were: +349 reported cases, +116 hospital admissions, +19 ICU admissions, and +31 thirty-day all-cause deaths*.
*All-cause deaths in people who had a positive COVID-19 test in the prior 30 days, that is.
The situation report says that due to a “systems issue”, they do not have currently-in-hospital numbers for today.