15 more deaths in latest B.C. COVID-19 update

B.C. has recorded 15 more COVID-19-related deaths in the last 24 hours, pushing the seven-day rolling average for deaths in the province to its highest level since mid-October.

That average reached 8.3 with Thursday's update, up from just 1.1 as recently as Jan. 5.

There have now been 2,520 deaths attributed to COVID-19 in B.C. since the pandemic began.

The latest data from the Ministry of Health also included 891 people in hospital with COVID-19, a slight decrease from Wednesday's total of 895.

The number of people in intensive care with the coronavirus has risen, however, from 115 on Wednesday to 119 in Thursday's update.

B.C.'s hospitalization numbers include both people who are admitted to hospital because of COVID-19 infections and those who are admitted for other reasons and test positive as part of routine screening.

The number reported each day is said to be an "overestimate" of the number of coronavirus patients with serious illness in the province, with a recent study in Vancouver Coastal Health finding approximately 45 per cent of hospitalized COVID-19 patients were admitted with the disease, rather than because of it.

Five of the deaths announced Thursday happened in the Fraser Health region. Vancouver Coastal Health and Island Health saw four deaths each, and the remaining two were in the Interior Health authority.

The province does not release the vaccination status of people who die from COVID-19 on a daily basis.

Data from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control indicates that people who are unvaccinated accounted for 39 of the 82 deaths recorded in the province between Dec. 18 and Jan. 17. That's approximately 48 per cent of deaths during the period. People who have not been vaccinated make up just 14 per cent of the province's population.  

As of Thursday, 89.4 per cent of eligible people ages five and older in B.C. had received at least a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 83.5 per cent had received two shots.

Among adults, 39.3 per cent had received a booster dose.

Many of those who have received their booster shots are residents of long-term care homes.

The ministry announced eight new outbreaks of COVID-19 in such facilities on Thursday. There were also six outbreaks declared over, leaving the province with 58 active outbreaks in its health-care facilities, most of them in long-term care.

As of last week, relatively few of the outbreaks in care homes during the Omicron wave had resulted in deaths, according to BCCDC data

The latest update also included 2,150 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19. B.C. has been de-emphasizing case numbers since Omicron swamped the province's testing system.

The actual number of new infections in the province over the last 24 hours is likely several times higher than the reported number, since B.C. is recommending against testing for those who are vaccinated and under age 65.

Health officials said last week that they believed Omicron cases had peaked in the province, based on wastewater monitoring.