B.C. health officials say 349 people are now in hospital with COVID-19, including 93 in intensive care, as the province reported nine more deaths from the disease and 3,144 new cases on Friday.
The new numbers represent an increase of 25 COVID-19 patients hospitalized within the last 24 hours, including three more 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 Thursday, 23.9 per cent of COVID-19 tests in B.C. are coming back positive, according to the province's COVID-19 dashboard. On Vancouver Island, 29.1 per cent of tests are positive.
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.
COVID-19 in B.C. by the numbers
There are currently 33,184 recorded active cases of people infected with the novel coronavirus in B.C.
Overall hospitalizations, which typically lag behind spikes and dips in new cases, are up by 59 per cent from last Friday, when 220 people were in hospital with the disease and up about 44 per cent from a month ago when 242 people were in hospital.
The number of patients in intensive care is up by about 27 per cent from 73 a week ago and up by 13 per cent from a month ago when 82 people were in the ICU.
The provincial death toll from COVID-19 is now 2,439 lives lost out of 276,875 confirmed cases to date.
Deaths per day due to COVID-19 in B.C., daily total and rolling average
By Friday afternoon, the province said there were a total of 38 active outbreaks in assisted living, long-term, and acute care facilities, including new outbreaks at Surrey Memorial Hospital and Peace Arch Hospital Foundation Lodge in Surrey.
Later Friday night, Vancouver Coastal Health announced an additional outbreak at Dresden House at German Canadian Care Home, after 12 residents tested positive for COVID-19.
As of Friday, 88.5 per cent of those five and older in B.C. have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 83.1 per cent a second dose.
From Dec. 30 to Jan. 5, people who were not fully vaccinated accounted for 17.1 per cent of cases and from Dec. 23 to Jan. 5, and they accounted for 39.3 per cent of hospitalizations, according to the province.
COVID-19 infections in B.C. by vaccination status, adjusted by population and age
A total of 1,089,023 people have received a booster shot to date.
The province is currently ramping up its vaccination program in response to Omicron. On Friday, Northern Health announced that vaccination capacity is doubling in Prince George beginning next week, while Fraser Health said it is reopening or expanding a number of mass vaccination clinics to provide boosters.
Daily COVID-19 vaccination progress in B.C.
Children set to return to school
Earlier Friday, B.C. officials announced that schoolchildren will return to in-class learning on Monday, despite a surge in transmission caused by the Omicron variant.
Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside said there will be enhanced safety measures in place and schools will have access to three-layered masks, despite calls from the B.C. Teachers Federation to distribute N95s instead.
Rolling average of COVID-19 cases by Health Region in Omicron wave
Last week, the province announced a staggered return to school in January because of Omicron, and school administrators have been using this time to prepare contingency plans, including functional, phased closures for when too many staff are sick or required to isolate.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry also said a new supply of rapid tests from the federal government is expected to begin arriving next week.