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44% of B.C.’s infected patients not admitted for COVID-19, tests show

Omicron variant now most of positive tests in hospitals
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix outline holiday season gathering restrictions to reduce COVID-19 infections, B.C. legislature, Dec. 21, 2021. (B.C. government photo)

More than 40 per cent of B.C. patients testing positive for COVID-19 after admission to hospital since Dec. 1 were admitted for other conditions and had either mild or no respiratory symptoms, new data from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control show.

For cases where Omicron is identified as the infection variant, the tests show 60 per cent of hospital admissions are for reasons other than COVID-19 during December and January.

“So it’s not COVID that’s driving them into hospital,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said at a briefing from Vancouver Feb. 1.

Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix released the latest results Tuesday, analyzing the surge in COVID-19 infections in hospitals since the Omicron variant took hold. Tests on patients after Dec. 1 revealed that the latest variant has nearly taken over, outnumbering the earlier Delta variant by 16 to one.

Results confirm an earlier sample from Vancouver Coastal Health patients that severe illness from Omicron is substantially less than Delta. with the majority of intensive care admissions among unvaccinated patients.

Henry said the latest results show hospitalization has peaked after reaching more than 1,000 this week, which was expected after daily infections peaked in January. The length of hospital stay has dropped since Omicron became dominant, with many of the longer stays still a result of infection with the Delta variant.

“The odds of being hospitalized with Omicron are much less,” Henry said.

The impact of Omicron infections on residents of long-term care is also showing less severe illness, and guidance for care home administrators is being updated this week to allow for at least one essential visitor at all times and a second designated visitor where possible.

B.C. health authorities continue to operate scheduled appointment COVID-19 vaccination clinics around the province for residents age five and older. Registration and booking appointments in B.C. can be done online here, or by calling 1-833-838-2323 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., seven days a week.

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