B.C. COVID-19 Modelling Group forecasts February peak in hospital demand, given current restrictions

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      An independent group of mathematicians, statisticians, epidemiologists, and other experts has concluded that the number of B.C. COVID-19 cases continues to rise for people over the age of 70.

      The B.C. COVID-19 Modelling Group noted in a report released today (January 19) that this is the case in all five of the province's regional health authorities.

      The rate of growth in the over-70 group has declined from 20 percent per day to 10 percent per day.

      "This is important because hospital demand depends disproportionately on cases in this age class," the group stated.

      Moreover, it suggested that the growing number of COVID-19 cases among the elderly means that the peak in hospital demand likely won't occur until February with the current restrictions.

      Video: Listen to the presentation that accompanies the B.C. COVID-19 Modelling Group report.

      One of the challenges facing the group is the inability to rely on case data because so many people who've been infected are not being tested.

      "In the absence of reliable case data, hospital admissions can provide a good measure to track the pandemic and its impact, as it has less lag than hospital occupancy data," the group stated.

      However, it added that hospital-admission data is updated at "irregular levels".

      "Access to accurate, timely, and consistent daily hospital admission data would allow for better projections of health care demands," the group noted. "We ask BC to make such data public."

      On January 14, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told reporters that the Omicron wave likely peaked in B.C. in the first week of January. 

      The data from the B.C. COVID-19 Modelling Group, however, raises serious questions about whether that statement is true.

      B.C. COVID-19 Modelling Group

      On January 18, the Ministry of Health reported that there were a record 854 people in B.C. hospitals with COVID-19, including 112 in intensive care.

      According to Health Minister Adrian Dix, 8,778 of the 9,229 "base beds" were in use.

      There are an additional 2,353 "surge beds", which had 570 patients.

      Over the past three weeks, the number of active reported cases of COVID-19 has tripled in B.C. and hospitalizations have more than quadrupled.

      Outbreaks in health facilities have increased more than 10-fold from five to 53 over the same period.

      The province will allow gyms and fitness centres to re-open on January 20 as long as they follow restrictions. Masks are strongly recommended but not required during exercise.

      Indoor events are restricted to 50 percent capcity, regardless of size, as long as everyone who enters has shown proof of vaccination and wears a mask. Casino capacity is also capped at 50 percent.

      Churches and church choirs have no capacity restrictions if everyone is vaccinated. But if they aren't all vaccinated, worship services and choirs are limited to 50 percent capacity.

      "Masks are required but can be temporarily removed for ceremonial eating and drinking, and by officiants, readers or for singing a solo where physical distancing is observed," the Ministry of Health states on its website.