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Why are so few COVID-19 patients in B.C. hospitals as cases rise?

Last Updated Aug 13, 2020 at 10:10 am PDT

A health-care worker is seen making his way into the emergency department of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver Monday, March 30, 2020. . THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Summary

Younger adults account for many new coronavirus cases in B.C.

Coronavirus patients 60 and older are much more likely to require hospitalization

NEWS 1130 is working hard to get you the information you need about the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are responding to your questions in a segment we call NEWS 1130 Gets Answers.

Question:

Chris: “We’ve seen a recent increase in active cases in B.C., but it doesn’t seem to be resulting in an increase in hospitalizations. Can this be attributed to different demographics being infected versus earlier in the pandemic, or is it possible we’re dealing with a different variation of the virus that causes less severe illness?”

Answer:

The coronavirus has increasingly been found in British Columbians between the ages of 20 and 40, who now make up the majority of new cases.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said there are two main factors pushing the average age of COVID-19 patients down.

During the early days of the pandemic, outbreaks were concentrated in long-term care homes, affecting elderly residents and health-care workers, most of whom are aged 30 to 60.

While parties with young people have created clusters of new cases in B.C. this summer, Henry said reopening some businesses has also contributed to an increase of COVID-19 cases among younger adults, particularly retail workers and servers at restaurants and bars.

She also pointed to a recent outbreak at a blueberry packing plant in Abbotsford, which is staffed by a “younger demographic.”

Henry said this is indeed why we’ve seen hospitalizations remain low despite a resurgence in new cases this month.

Patients 60 and older are much more likely to get seriously ill with COVID-19 and require hospitalization, she said.

As of Aug. 12, there were 531 active COVID-19 cases in B.C. but only eight people in hospital, five of whom were in intensive care.

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