Due to record-high hospitalizations, patients who have COVID-19 are being placed in the same room with double-vaccinated people who do not have the virus, British Columbia health officials said.
B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry confirmed the policy at a Friday news conference, responding to a specific question about the policy’s use by the Fraser Health Authority.
It is unclear if the policy is limited to hospitals in Fraser Health, the province’s largest health-care authority with 12 hospitals, and which hospitals have the policy in place.
A spokesperson for Fraser Health refused to answer questions when asked about the specifics of the “cohorting” policy, instead pointing to the answers given at Friday’s news conference. Cohorting refers to assigning different patients into different groups for the purposes of disease management.
At the news conference, Henry said the protocol was to “maximize space” in health-care facilities amid a rapidly mounting hospitalization rate due to the more infectious Omicron variant.
“That is an infection prevention and control team decision made at a hospital-by-hospital and, actually, room-by-room and ward-by-ward, basis,” she said.
Henry mentioned that additional precautions would be put in place if double-vaccinated patients were placed with COVID-positive patients in the same room.
Fraser Health said the protections were consistent with “droplet precautions,” with COVID-positive patients’ beds being placed a minimum of two metres away from any other patients.
In addition, COVID-positive patients will not be sharing rooms with immunocompromised patients, and they must either be asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic in order to share rooms. Those experiencing significant symptoms will continue to be placed in COVID-19-only cohorts.
The memo outlining the new guidelines said they were being put in place “due to the evolving epidemiology of the COVID-19 virus, specifically Omicron, and that this virus generally causes mild disease particularly in fully vaccinated individuals.”
“The challenge of having more people in a hospital is the challenge of cohorting everybody is much more difficult,” Health Minister Adrian Dix said at the Friday news conference.
“When you have a lot of people in the hospital, you have to manage within the space you have and ensure that infection control stays high — and that’s what our teams are doing in hospitals across B.C.”
At the same news conference, health officials said they would not be focusing on contact tracing and would shift their COVID-19 management strategies.
The decision to place those who have COVID-19 in the same hospital room with fully vaccinated people received some pushback online from health experts — particularly in light of evidence that someone with two vaccine doses is still at considerable risk of contracting the more infectious Omicron variant.
The province still considers anyone with two shots to be fully vaccinated, even as the booster dose rollout continues to accelerate.