Provincial health officer Dr Bonnie Henry provided an epidemiological modelling presentation Thursday afternoon. Province of BC / Flickr

Modelling shows COVID cases declining in BC even as hospitalizations remain “stubbornly” high

Modelling shows that even as cases declined in BC over the past month, the level of hospitalizations has remained steady.

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November 5, 2021 | 5:00 am

COVID case rates are on a slow decline in all areas of the province, according to new epidemiological modelling presented Thursday afternoon.

But a “stubbornly high rate of hospitalizations” has provincial health officer Dr Bonnie Henry frustrated.

Earlier this year, when more and more people began to be vaccinated, Henry had predicted that the province would soon see a “decoupling” of hospitalizations and cases—the theory being that vaccines would protect against the most serious illnesses.

So far, that hasn’t happened. And in fact, the modelling presentation showed that even as cases declined in BC over the past month, the level of hospitalizations has remained steady.

The problem is especially severe in areas with lower vaccination coverage like parts of northern BC, where 100 patients have had to be transferred to hospitals in other areas of the province to alleviate pressure on the healthcare system.

The highly infectious Delta variant is one possible cause of the continued high hospitalization rates, Henry said. The variant is ripping through unvaccinated populations, making younger people sicker than they were in previous waves of the pandemic.

But it’s also hitting older people who have been vaccinated, but whose bodies haven’t mounted the same level of immune response to the vaccines as younger people.

In fact, fully vaccinated seniors made up nearly half of all COVID deaths in BC last month.

Many of the deaths occurred at Willingdon Care Centre in Burnaby, the site of the most “significant outbreak in BC” in recent months. 81 of the centre’s 95 residents were infected, and 15 people died.

That outbreak was declared over earlier this week.

However, the province also presented data adjusted for age that shows fully vaccinated adults are still at far lower risk of serious illness or death than people who aren’t vaccinated at all.

In October, unvaccinated people were infected at a rate 10x higher than people who were fully vaccinated. They were 50x more likely to end up in hospital, and 46x more likely to die.

While case rates are flattening across the province, Henry told reporters that with the respiratory season arriving, it’s extremely important to keep as much pressure off the healthcare system as possible.

That means British Columbians should get vaccinated if they haven’t already, get their booster shots when they become eligible, sign children under 12 up to be vaccinated when they are able, and get their flu shots as well.

Srushti Gangdev

Reporter at Burnaby Beacon

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