B.C. public health teams reported a record 2,944 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, but so far little change in hospitalization rates as the Omicron variant spreads rapidly in the province.
As of Dec. 29, there are 193 people in hospital with active coronavirus infections, 66 of them in intensive care, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said in the first briefing since Christmas eve. Since Dec. 24 there have been five additional deaths attributed to coronavirus.
Henry said the impact of rising cases on the health care system is not yet known. The incubation period for the Omicron variant is averaging three days, half of what the earlier Delta variant was on average.
“Omicron has left us with more questions than answers, but it also is different, and is spreading through our communities in a way that is different from other variants,” Henry said.
Henry said the new variant can become transmissible before a person experiences symptoms, and she urged greater vigilance for people visiting senior homes or attending gatherings if experiencing respiratory symptoms. Data so far show people who have had COVID-19 have a 10 times greater chance of being reinfected if they do not have two doses of vaccine, Henry said.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said the province’s booster vaccine program is expanding, with people aged 70 and up receiving invitations to book a third dose five months after their second one. Younger people who are registered can expect invitations six months after their second dose.
Asked about the true rate of virus infection spread as the B.C. health care system has reached its maximum of about 20,000 daily tests, Henry said the actual rate is not known, but it is likely three to four times the rate of positive molecular tests on a given day. That has been consistent since the pandemic began almost two years ago, she said.
B.C. health authorities continue to operate scheduled appointment COVID-19 vaccination clinics around the province for residents age five and older. Registration and booking appointments in B.C. can be done online here, or by calling 1-833-838-2323 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., seven days a week.