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B.C. hospitals see more COVID-19 admissions in Omicron surge

Rapid tests to allow additional senior home visitors soon
A nurse attends to a patient at the COVID-19 intensive care unit at Surrey Memorial Hospital, June 2021. (The Canadian Press)

B.C.’s COVID-19 hospital admissions are “creeping up” and the number of health care staff off work with infection is also growing in the surge of the Omicron variant, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday.

The faster-spreading virus is now more than 80 per cent of new coronavirus cases identified by testing, and continues to show mostly milder upper respiratory symptoms in vaccinated people, Henry said at a briefing from Vancouver Jan. 4.

Due to the surge and a return of COVID-19 outbreaks in senior homes, residents are currently restricted to only one essential visitor. Henry said rapid antigen tests are being distributed to senior homes that will allow them to expand visits to one essential and one designated social visitor by the end of this week.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said pressure on hospitals continues high, with more than 450 people in intensive care beds province-wide for all illnesses, including COVID-19. B.C. currently has 510 base intensive care beds and 218 surge beds that have been added to deal with the pandemic.

With schools moving back to full operation next week after a phased return with children of health, education and other essential workers, Henry said students should focus on core school work and reduce extra-curricular activities to a minimum. Wearing well-fitted masks properly and consistently in schools and other gathering places is more important than having N95 respirators, she said.

“It’s essential that we keep our schools open for children, just as we have kept our hospitals and grocery stores open,” Henry said.

B.C. is still allowing team sports for adults and youth to continue, but tournaments and travel are off and organizations should not try to get around these restrictions, Henry said.

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