B.C. health officials said Wednesday that 317 people are in hospital with COVID-19, including 83 in intensive care, as the province reported 3,798 new cases of the disease and no additional deaths.
The new numbers represent a jump of 19 COVID-19 patients hospitalized within one day, including three fewer patients in the ICU.
Experts say hospitalizations are a more accurate barometer of the disease's impact, as new case numbers in B.C. are likely higher than reported now that the province has hit its testing limit because of the Omicron surge.
As of Monday, 23.2 per cent of tests are coming back positive — the highest seven-day rolling average that B.C. has seen during the pandemic. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said that anything above a five per cent test- positivity rate indicates a concerning level of community transmission.
In a written statement, health officials said there are now 29,967 active cases of people infected with the novel coronavirus in B.C.
Overall hospitalizations are up by 54 per cent from last Wednesday, when 206 people were in hospital with the disease, and by 32 per cent from a month ago when 241 people were in hospital.
The number of patients in intensive care is up by about 26 per cent from 66 a week ago and down by seven per cent from a month ago when 89 people were in the ICU.
COVID-19 in B.C. by the numbers
The provincial death toll from the disease is now 2,427 out of 270,508 confirmed cases to date.
The regional breakdown of new confirmed cases is as follows:
1,739 new cases in Fraser Health, which has 13,920 total active cases.
840 new cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, which has 9,100 total active cases.
473 new cases in Interior Health, which has 2,563 total active cases.
566 new cases in Island Health, which has 3,631 total active cases.
179 new cases in Northern Health, which has 750 total active cases.
One new case among people who reside outside Canada, a group with three active cases.
Rolling average of COVID-19 cases by Health Region in Omicron wave
There are 21 active outbreaks in long-term care, acute care, and assisted living facilities.
As of Wednesday, 88.3 per cent of people over the age of five in B.C. had received a first shot and 83 per cent a second dose.
A new high 36,210 people in B.C. received booster shots on Tuesday, as the province's new vaccine strategy ramps up.
From Dec. 28 to Jan. 3, people who were not fully vaccinated accounted for 16.2 per cent of cases and from Dec. 21 to Jan. 3, they accounted for 51.4 per cent of hospitalizations, according to the province.
COVID-19 infections in B.C. by vaccination status, adjusted by population and age
Reports of threats at testing sites
In a statement Wednesday, provincial officials said they had received reports of workers at testing sites being threatened and intimidated.
"B.C.'s health-care workers are doing an exceptional job under the most challenging of circumstances," the province said in a statement. "They deserve the support of all of us, particularly now as we work together to manage this next phase of the pandemic."
Officials said intimidating and threatening health-care workers at vaccination or test sites is illegal under a new provincial law, and police would be called if any further incidents were reported.
"If you do not have any symptoms, you do not need to be tested. Please do not attempt to access testing services," said Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry in a statement. "This will allow health-care workers to prioritize care to those who need it."
Confidence in school return Monday
The president of the B.C. School Trustees Association (BCSTA) says she's "very confident" that all schools in the province will be open next week to welcome students from K-12.
Last week, the province announced a staggered return to school in January due to the rapid spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant in B.C., and administrators say they've been told to use this time to prepare contingency plans.
"We have a lot of tools and a lot of experience that are going to serve us well through this next wave," BCSTA president Stephanie Higginson said on the CBC's The Early Edition.
Daily COVID-19 vaccination progress in B.C.
She said every school in every district across the province is developing its own contingency plan and figuring how they can prioritize in-person learning for all students.
"We have fought every single wave of this pandemic and we have done it by working together and we're going to continue to do that," Higginson said.
She said schools will bring some safety measures back next week, such as staggered recess and lunch times, limiting visitors to the school and pausing extracurricular events or tournaments that draw in large groups of kids together.
Union calls for more school safety measures
Meanwhile, the union that represents all public school teachers in B.C. says additional safety measures still need to be put in place before schools are safe to reopen next week.
"It's hard to understand why, in this environment, N95 masks aren't being made available," B.C. Teachers' Federation president Teri Mooring said.
Last week, the union urged the province to delay the start of the winter term in public schools and gave a list of recommendations, including fast-tracking teachers and support staff for boosters and addressing concerns about ventilation in schools.
Deaths per day due to COVID-19 in B.C., daily total and rolling average
Mooring says there hasn't been enough action on both those issues.
"About half the districts in the province don't have adequate filters in their ventilation systems," she said, "but what are the mitigation strategies being used? We've been working on this for almost two years ... we need to see more."
She said teachers have received their invitation for a booster shot but many aren't able to get an appointment until the end of January.
"Quite frankly, January is what is concerning us right now," Mooring said.