Various metrics show that pressure on the provincial health care system caused by a jump in respiratory illness is easing.
But officials are also warning against complacency while arguing that stricter measures would be ineffective because of their health effects in other areas.
Provincial health officer Bonnie Henry said cases of influenza have dropped from a positivity rate of 27 per cent in late November to five per cent in the first week of January. She added that no additional children have died since the deaths of six kids late last year.
While cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are starting to level off, they remain high, she said. COVID-19 is slightly declining. Provincial authorities reported 661 new cases, with 24 of those confirmed as the XBB 1.5 (Kraken) variant.
“We are not out of the woods yet,” said Henry.
Health minister Adrian Dix, meanwhile, said hospitals remain “historically” busy. He said 10,106 people were receiving hospital care as of Thursday. That figure marks a drop of 120 from Jan. 6.
“That represents about 87 per cent occupancy rate of the total base of surge bed but also 110 per cent of base bed capacity in the province,” he said.
“This is the week we obviously see our highest census, but we also saw significantly higher census than we typically see in the week between Christmas and New Year’s,” he said.
Despite these challenges, Dix said British Columbians can count on receiving hospital care and pointed to 4,698 surgeries in B.C. between Dec. 18 and Dec. 24. This represents an historic figure even as the health care system faces these challenges. The previous week hospitals completed 7,463 surgeries.
“We were completing more surgeries than in any week at any time in history of the health care system in British Columbia,” he said in praising the efforts of health care workers.
Dix said the emergency operations centre open since Jan. 9 to help coordinate the provincial response and address capacity issues will be in place for six weeks.
“That doesn’t mean it will take six weeks,” he said, adding the province would hope to see fewer people in hospital. Current measures shold ensure patients get care, he said, adding that the province wants to keep providing surgeries rather than deferring them.
“It’s very hard for people, when you defer surgery,” he said.
Henry, meanwhile, confirmed earlier statements that the province won’t take additional measures around masking. She encouraged British Columbians to wear masks to protect themselves and others, among other steps such as getting vaccinated. The high level of immunity among British Columbians through vaccination supplies a buffer and COVID-19 is causing no more severe illness than any respiratory infections, she said.
“So to try and incrementally reduce transmissions above that, we would have to take additional measures that would impact people’s abilities to do important things in their lives,” she said.
“Everybody wearing masks is not to going to make a tremendous difference in the transmission of these viruses because we transmit them in those situations — when we are at home, when we are with friends, when we are doing social things that are important in our lives — where we don’t wear masks and it still allows those viruses to transmit.”
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