COVID-19: Weekly death rate has risen in B.C. since summer, now higher than in Ontario, Quebec

B.C.’s total pandemic death rate is 43 per 100,000, while Ontario has a rate of 67 and Quebec 134. Information from the German data company Statista, posted online, also shows that B.C.’s total death rate is much lower than in countries such as the U.S., the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy.

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The rate of death from COVID-19 has been rising in B.C. since August and is higher than the other two most populous provinces, Ontario and Quebec, where the rate has been dropping.

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Experts say, however, it is hard to pinpoint exactly why without a much more detailed examination of the data.

According to information compiled by Health Canada, British Columbia has a death rate of 1.8 per 100,000 population in the past 14 days as of Nov. 5, a rate that appears to be beginning to make a slight downturn. That’s higher than the rates in Ontario (0.4) and Quebec (0.5) but lower than in Alberta (2.6) and Saskatchewan (4.3), all of which are on a visible downward trend.

The peaks and valleys of the 14-day death rates vary across provinces. For example, in B.C. the rate was low compared to Ontario and Quebec in the first six months of the pandemic, rising in the winter of 2020-21, then dropping to almost zero this summer before spiking again.

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In Ontario, there was a large spike in the death rate in the first few months of the pandemic that dropped in the summer, before spiking again in the winter and spring of 2021, before dropping off again.

The Health Canada data also shows that British Columbia has a much lower total COVID-19 death rate (across the entire pandemic period) than other populous provinces.

B.C.’s total pandemic death rate is 43 per 100,000, while Ontario has a rate of 67 and Quebec 134. Information from the German data company Statista, posted online, also shows that B.C.’s total death rate is much lower than in countries such as the U.S., the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy.

The B.C. health ministry reported 549 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday for a total of 4,483 active cases. Out of the active cases, 441 people are in hospital, including 129 who are seriously ill in intensive care. COVID-19 has claimed the life of one person in the Northern Health region over the previous 24-hour reporting period.

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University of B.C. epidemiologist Sarah Otto said while a more thorough investigation of data is needed, likely, the Delta variant first detected in India, which has taken over as the dominant virus strain, is playing a role, as well as the waning of vaccine protection particularly among seniors who were the first to get the vaccine.

Recent information produced by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control also noted a seasonal increase in deaths from COVID-19 in the fall not unlike that of the flu, noted Otto, a zoologist who specializes in mathematical modelling.

It underscores the need for third, boosters shots, particularly in seniors and those who are immunocompromised, she said.

“It also takes time for these booster doses to take hold,” noted Otto.

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Earlier this week, provincial health officials said over the past month, public health has provided booster doses to 93 per cent of residents of care homes.

Daily case numbers started growing in B.C. at the end of July and have remained high, although they are trending downward.

B.C. had lifted a mandate to wear masks in public spaces but reintroduced the restriction after cases began growing. The province has also introduced regional COVID-19 restrictions in the Interior and the North — including on the size of gatherings and at pubs and bars — where hospitalizations and deaths have risen faster on a per person basis than in the Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley regions.

Simon Fraser University epidemiologist Caroline Colijn said the increasing death rates point to the importance of continuing control measures, including tracking the virus and using tools such as booster shots for seniors.

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“And the problem is that even at 90 per cent of the population being vaccinated, that still leaves 400,000 or more people who are not vaccinated,” noted Colijn, a Canada 150 research chair in mathematics for evolution, infection and public health with SFU.

Information released this week by the B.C. Ministry of Health showed that in the month of October, about half of 170 deaths from COVID-19 were in people who were fully or partially vaccinated. Among those people, the majority were 60 years or older, most of those over 80 years old.

Among the half who died who were not vaccinated, there was a more even distribution of deaths among ages 50 and older.

B.C. Centre for Disease Control information shows 328 COVID-19 deaths between Aug. 1 and Oct. 23.

Of those, 108 occurred at long-term care homes.

ghoekstra@postmedia.com

twitter.com/gordon_hoekstra

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