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‘Emerging from this pandemic’: Optimism mixed with uncertainty as BC heads into fall

With October right around the corner, that means respiratory illness season is fast-arriving as well.

Provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry presented data on Wednesday that painted an optimistic picture of British Columbia’s COVID-19 situation as we enter the colder months.

<who>Photo Credit: Government of BC

“I do believe we are emerging from this pandemic, but a lot of uncertainty remains,” she said. “COVID-19 is going to be with us for the long term.”

There are currently 358 COVID-positive people in hospital, but Henry said that only 40-50% of them are there because of the virus.

The rest are there for other reasons but tested positive for COVID-19 and similar data has become available on COVID-19 deaths.

As more data comes in on those who have died less than 30 days after a positive COVID-19 test, it’s been determined that the cause of death for around half is not related to the virus.

Currently, Omicron continues to be the dominant variant, which has been the case for nearly a year, and it is “primarily causing a milder form of illness in most people,” Henry noted.

But she added that age-adjusted data still shows the effectiveness of vaccines, as those who don’t have their shots have a four-times higher risk of getting seriously ill or dying from the Omicron variant.

Henry said that Omicron is expected to remain the dominant variant in the coming months and “it’s unlikely” that we will face an unknown, rapidly-progressing variant this winter.

While the attitude heading into respiratory illness season is more optimistic than the past two years, there is still concern about a surge of hospitalization from COVID-19 and influenza.

The fall booster program for COVID-19 vaccines began earlier this month and Henry said today that influenza vaccinations will begin next week for some, and after the Thanksgiving long weekend for most.

Influenza season usually picks up around December, but Henry noted that the Southern Hemisphere saw an early surge this year and the Province is prepared for flu cases to start spiking in November.

Influenza vaccinations are available to everyone six months of age and older, and they are free.

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