B.C. health officials reported 646 people in hospital with COVID-19 on Friday, including 95 in intensive care, as the province reported six more deaths from the disease and 2,275 new cases on Friday.
The new numbers represent an increase of 112 COVID-19 patients in hospital but health officials said during a Friday morning briefing they expected a one-time spike after changing the method of calculating COVID-related hospitalizations to include people who were admitted for other reasons but tested positive for the disease.
The province also reported seven fewer patients in the ICU compared to Thursday.
Experts say hospitalizations are a more accurate barometer of the disease's impact, as new case numbers in B.C. are likely much higher than reported, now that the province has hit its testing limit because of the Omicron surge.
There are currently 35,943 recorded active cases of people infected with the novel coronavirus in B.C.
The provincial death toll from COVID-19 is now 2,468 lives lost out of 293,521 confirmed cases to date.
There are a total of 46 active outbreaks in assisted living, long-term, and acute care facilities.
Acute care outbreaks include:
Surrey Memorial Hospital.
Eagle Ridge Hospital.
Royal Columbian Hospital.
Abbotsford Regional Hospital.
Langley Memorial Hospital.
Peace Arch Hospital.
Kelowna General Hospital.
Royal Jubilee Hospital.
As of Friday, 89 per cent of those five and older in B.C. had received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 83.3 per cent a second dose.
From Jan. 6 to 12, people who were not fully vaccinated accounted for 21.5 per cent of cases and from Dec. 30 to Jan. 12, they accounted for 34.2 per cent of hospitalizations, according to the province.
A total of 1.4 million people have received a booster shot to date.
Antivirals on route
As the pandemic-weary province confronts another wave of COVID-19 cases with a strained health-care system, Health Canada is looking at new products that could offer some relief: antivirals.
Two such drugs are making their way through the labyrinthine Health Canada approvals process: Pfizer's Paxlovid and Merck's molnupiravir.
These antiviral treatments, which are prescribed by a doctor and administered in pill form, are designed to help the body fight off the SARS-CoV-2 virus, reduce symptoms from an infection and shorten the period of illness.
Pfizer, the New York-based pharmaceutical giant which also developed a highly effective COVID-19 vaccine, started sending Paxlovid data to Health Canada regulators on Dec. 1.
An approval of some sort could be coming soon, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos told reporters on Wednesday.
"The Health Canada approval process is proceeding swiftly in an accelerated manner, as has been the case for many other approval processes in the last 22 months," Duclos said.