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B.C. has highest COVID-19 death count in 10 weeks

Another 33 such deaths raise province's COVID-19 death toll to 4,097
Hospital patient with healthcare worker - Getty Morsa Images
A man with COVID-19 communicates with a health-care worker while in hospital

B.C. recorded 33 COVID-19 deaths in the week that ended August 20, according to government data released today. 

While this is the highest count since June 16, 10 weeks ago, government data can be unreliable. 

The province raised its overall COVID-19 death toll to 4,097, since the first death was recorded in March 2020, in North Vancouver. That count is up by 60, compared with the previous week, despite 33 new deaths. On August 18, the province said there were 24 new deaths in the week up to August 13, for a total of 4,037.

Data for new COVID-19 deaths includes anyone who tested positive for COVID-19 within 30 days and then died – a calculation that could include people who tested positive and then died in car accidents.

Glacier Media has asked the Ministry of Health why the death toll consistently rises more than the number of new deaths but has not received a satisfactory explanation. The ministry's most recent response was that the data "may be incomplete," but there has never been any updates to previously announced weekly death totals. 

In April, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said that she was changing the process for counting deaths and that the new procedure would be to include all deaths that involved people infected with COVID-19 in weekly updates and the overall death toll. She said that the province's Vital Statistics Agency would then determine that some deaths were not due to COVID-19 and that it would remove those deaths from the overall death toll. The death toll's consistent rise in excess of the number of new deaths is the exact opposite of what Henry said would happen. 

The latest count of people who as of today are in hospital and have tested positive for COVID-19 is 331. That is down from the 366 people identified as being in hospital one week ago, on August 18.

The government has said that it updates these numbers once per week, but in each of the past two weeks it has slipped in an additional update after it first provided the weekly numbers. Earlier today, the government's COVID-19 dashboard showed that there were 390 people in hospital as of August 18, so today's tally would be an even larger decline from one week ago.

Of those now counted as being in hospital with COVID-19, 29 are in intensive care units (ICUs). That is up from the 22 ICU COVID-19 patients originally counted as being in those units on August 18, and from the 24 ICU COVID-19 patients in the province's updated tally for that day, which appeared sometime in the past week. 

The government said today that 737 new infections were detected in the week ended August 20 – down by 140 from the 877 known new infections in the week ended August 13.

Data for new infections is widely dismissed. Even Henry, earlier this year, called the data for new cases "not accurate." This is because in December she started telling people who were vaccinated and had mild symptoms to not get tested and to simply self-isolate. She said at the time that this was to increase testing capacity for those with more serious symptoms and those who are more vulnerable.

Health officials conducted 15,604 COVID-19 tests, which would make the positive-test rate 4.72 per cent, according to government data. That's the lowest that rate has been since mid-June.

The cumulative total of known infections in the province has risen to 381,788.