Things seem to have changed over the past week, as the drop in hospitalizations faltered and COVID-19 levels in wastewater began to rise.
This comes as the World Health Organization confirmed the more transmissible BA. 2 Omicron subvariant has now taken over around the world, and as Quebec and Ontario announce they are in a sixth wave of the pandemic.
Here’s some things to keep an eye on in B.C. over the next week.
1 — ROLLOUT OF TREATMENTS
As the pandemic moves toward an endemic state — though there has been less talk of that over the past few weeks — treatments will become more important.
B.C. has two outpatient treatments that are being used to treat COVID-19.
They are Xevudy (sotrovimab) and Paxlovid (which is a mix of two drugs — nirmatrelvir and ritonavir).
At this point, both are only being made available for “clinically, extremely vulnerable” patients with a PCR test confirmed case and in limited doses.
More doses are expected to arrive from the federal government over the next month and should then be made more widely available.
2- AN ANNOUNCEMENT ON SECOND BOOSTER SHOT
It’s going to start getting confusing talking about COVID-19 vaccination. Are you boosted, double boosted, triple shot or quadruple shot?
As it stands, 57.6 per cent of British Columbian adults have received three doses of vaccine. That’s two shots as part of the first round of vaccination, and then a third “booster” shot.
Now the B.C. government is talking about a second “booster” shot, which is a fourth shot of vaccine.
Last Thursday, Health Minister Adrian Dix suggested that on Tuesday he would make an announcement about the rollout of a fourth dose.
Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization is also expected to make an announcement this week on a fourth dose of vaccine.
3 — CASE COUNTS BECOME LESS RELEVANT
The B.C. Ministry of Health has reduced access to laboratory PCR tests for COVID-19, meaning daily case numbers are not a reflection of the state of the pandemic in B.C.
The government’s PCR testing capacity is 20,000, but only around 5,000 tests a day are now conducted — and only on potential high risk cases or people working in high-risk settings.
The government is making available hundreds of thousands of the less accurate rapid test kits, however, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control is no longer asking people who test positive to register their results.
So daily case counts and active case counts are becoming less and less useful all the time.
4 — KEEP AN EYE ON WASTEWATER DATA
The BCCDC and Metro Vancouver have been testing wastewater at five wastewater treatment plants since May 2020 to assess the general presence of the disease.
According to the centre’s latest COVID-19 situation report, after a period of stability following decreases from the peak of the Omicron wave in February wastewater levels of COVID-19 are rising — most noticeably in Vancouver.
The release of more of this data over the next few weeks will provide an insight into the pandemic in Metro Vancouver.
5 — HOSPITALIZATIONS AND DEATHS ARE KEY
At the end of the day, the government’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic in B.C. has been about keeping people out of hospital and not overloading an already stretched medical system.
With case counts no longer relevant, the number of people in hospitals and intensive care units and the number who die each day is the best way to gauge the direction of the pandemic.
You also need to factor in that the government counts as a COVID hospital case a person who has arrived there because of COVID-19, or simply if they have the virus while being treated for something else. Reported cases in intensive care, however, are people who are there because of the disease. And a COVID-19 death is someone whose death is linked to the disease — not someone who has died of something else, but had COVID-19.
At the moment, the number of COVID-19 patients in hospital is fairly steady, after falling substantially since early February (last Thursday there were 274 cases, with 35 of those in intensive care.) Average deaths per day are fewer than five.
These metrics will mean a lot over the next few weeks if a sixth wave arrives in B.C.
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