Actual COVID-19 cases in hospital greater than official numbers, department says

·2 min read
There are more people in hospital with COVID-19 than the Department of Health reported Friday, but they aren't officially counted because the virus isn't the cause of their hospitalization, the department said. (Hamilton Health Sciences - image credit)
There are more people in hospital with COVID-19 than the Department of Health reported Friday, but they aren't officially counted because the virus isn't the cause of their hospitalization, the department said. (Hamilton Health Sciences - image credit)

The Department of Health is reporting 11 COVID-19 patients in hospital due to the severity of their conditions, but aren't counting six other COVID-positive patients in that total, the department said Friday.

As swaths of people recover from the virus, which spread rapidly through the St. John's metro region earlier this month, some are now experiencing more intense symptoms. The number of official hospitalizations due to the virus has steadily increased in recent days, with 11 now admitted because of their COVID symptoms. Five of those are in intensive care.

Six more have COVID-19, and are also in hospital. But the health department isn't counting them among the hospitalized, since they aren't there because of their COVID symptoms.

All 17 hospitalized COVID cases are currently in the Health Sciences Centre in St. John's, according to the department.

Health Minister John Haggie addressed any resulting confusion during Friday's briefing.

"We have only ever reported those people with COVID, who were admitted to hospitals because of the severity of their [condition]," Haggie said, adding that throughout the last year, others admitted to hospital "for various reasons," such as surgeries or emergencies, tested positive for the virus but were not counted among the hospitalized.

"That is not usually reported," he said.

The revelation comes amid a growing outbreak at St. Clare's Mercy Hospital in St. John's, where up to 13 patients and staff have tested positive for COVID-19. The health authority will not confirm the exact number.

CBC News previously confirmed 4 of those cases — two patients and two employees.

The positive patients on Unit 6 have been transferred to the COVID-19 unit at the Health Sciences Centre, but it's not clear if those make up all six of the previously unreported cases admitted there.

5 people in ICU

The Health Sciences Centre now has five people in its intensive-care COVID ward, the most at any one time since the pandemic began.

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, chief medical officer of health, said Friday she's watching the rise closely.

"There have been reports that this variant can cause more severe disease," she said.

"When we're looking at our hospitalizations and ICU admissions, we are seeing them a little earlier than we would have expected, based on the original strain where that lag time was a little bit longer."

Haggie said Eastern Health had cleared 13 extra intensive care unit beds, and can clear more, if needed. He also said the hospital has "sufficient ventilators" and will not encounter staffing issues until 70 people are in intensive care.

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