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Younger British Columbians hospitalized with COVID-19 concerning, says top doctor

Last Updated Mar 23, 2021 at 5:27 am PDT

FILE - Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. (Courtesy Government of B.C.)

Dr. Bonnie Henry expressed concern over younger British Columbians being hospitalized because of COVID-19

B.C. reported 1,437 new infections, 16 deaths over three-day period on Monday

To date, more than 538,948 doses have vaccines have been administered in B.C.

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – B.C.’s top doctor is expressing concern over younger people ending up in the hospital because of COVID-19 as the province continues immunizing people against the virus.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Monday an increase in cases and hospitalizations has been mostly in the Lower Mainland.

“Concerningly, we’re starting to see younger people who are being affected end up in hospital and needing hospital and ICU care,” she said. “At the same time, we’re having more and more people protected by these vaccines, but we do not yet have enough protection to keep us all safe.”

“We have seen several young people in their 30s, and 40s who, unfortunately, tragically, been severely affected by COVID,” Henry said, adding data on the age of patients hospitalized is still being compiled. “[COVID-19] is still, of course, riskier the older you are, but as we are protecting more and more older people, we are seeing risk in younger people.”

New infections are coming from workplaces and exposures in homes, Henry added. She again reminded British Columbians to adhere to health orders, which means no more than groups of 10 people gathering and only outside.

“We know that the B.1.1.7 variant is more transmissible. It’s much easier to spread it with even minimal contact in indoor settings,” Henry said.

Over the three-day period reported Monday, 166 new variants have been retrospectively identified, bringing the total to 1,366 so far. Of those, 237 cases are active and the predominant strain continues to be the B.1.1.7 variant, first identified in the U.K.

However, Henry said there hasn’t been an increased risk of deaths or hospitalization despite the variants.

“Our overall hospitalization rate remains the same as what we’ve seen or slightly less than what we’re seeing in the general population around five per cent. We have not seen an increase in deaths either,” she said.

This comes as the province reported a three-day total of 1,785 new infections and that sixteen more people have died because of the virus, one of which was a historical death. Henry confirmed two of the people who passed away were long-term care residents.

There aren’t any new outbreaks and the ones at the Florentine and Chilliwack General Hospital have ended.

How vaccines are being used in B.C.

Henry touched on how the province is using COVID-19 vaccines while she and Health Minister Adrian Dix stressed that daily infections are too high.

RELATED: Canada expecting surge in COVID-19 vaccine deliveries to begin this week

Henry said the province will continue to address “hot spots” in areas considered to be high-risk with the AstraZeneca vaccine “so that we can protect workers, and, in turn, protect our communities.”

“We’re using this vaccine with the local medical health officers and making decisions about where we are seeing risk and outbreaks and clusters right now to provide protection to frontline workers and those working and living in higher-risk settings where we have seen repeatedly transmission can be high and it spills over into our homes, into our communities,” she said.

The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines will be used for people receiving their shots through the province’s age-based program.

She noted the distribution is being ramped up as more doses are delivered to Canada, putting B.C. ahead of schedule for vaccinating the population.

Dix said 10.5 per cent of eligible British Columbians have been immunized with their first shot.

To date, more than 538,948 doses have vaccines have been administered in B.C.