Medical personnel wear protective gear to wheel a patient into St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, B.C. on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel

Medical personnel wear protective gear to wheel a patient into St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, B.C. on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel

COVID patients hospitalized with variants of concern more likely to end up in ICU

Among patients with variants of concern, 30 per cent of people end up in the ICU

People who are hospitalized with a variant of concern are more likely to end up in the ICU, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said.

“International data suggests that (U.K. variant) B.1.1.7 could be connected to worse outcomes,” she said during a press conference Thursday (March 25).

Overall, about 19 per cent of people under the age of 60 hospitalized with COVID-19 have been sent to ICU, or intensive care. However, among patients with variants of concern, 30 per cent of people end up in the ICU. In total, 1,592 people under the age of 60 have been hospitalized with the virus since September.

Even as cases for seniors and other high-risk groups have gone down due to vaccination, more people between the ages of 19 and 39 have ended up infected with the coronavirus. This has led to more younger people in hospital and ICU; however, the rate of people under the age of 60 who require hospitalization has remained “low and stable” through the pandemic.

Henry cautioned that “the numbers are very small” and that data on variants of concern is being collected on an ongoing basis.

As of Wednesday, there were 1,581 cases of variants of concern in B.C.; of those, 1,397 were cases of the B.1.1.7 (U.K.) variant, 44 were cases of the B.1.351 (South Africa) variant and 140 were cases of the P.1 (Brazil) variant.

Henry warned that the although vaccination is ongoing, with more than 12 per cent of B.C. residents vaccinated with at least the first dose, cases are continuing to rise due to indoor gatherings.

“With the amount of virus spreading around the province – especially in the Lower Mainland – even a small group of people coming together means you can transmit,” she said.

“We’re seeing that people are taking that risk.”

While the recent loosening of restrictions may seem counterproductive, Henry said that the rules remain targeted.

“It’s not about easing restrictions as much as recognizing that at this phase of the pandemic we need to focus on things we can do safely,” she said.

“Things outside can be done much more safely than inside.”

Workplaces remain another major source of transmission. Henry said that between 33 and 40 per cent of new COVID-19 cases are coming from worksites, whether they are small business, restaurants or gyms.

READ MORE: Friends, family allowed to visit B.C. senior homes April 1


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