Do not panic (Yet). Somerset COVID 19 latest data

The national news has been full of crisis measures in the past few days. The rising levels of COVID-19 infections have led to renewed lockdowns in Tyneside Wales and the area around Bolton. While some people have been clearly flouting government advise, lockdowns are not trivial for a locality. It is not just about health.

The impact on small businesses, especially in the hospitality trade is significant. And Somerset has a lot of small businesses. Not taking this outbreak seriously is damaging to people’s livelihoods every bit as much as to their health.

So the latest figures for The Somerset County Council area should be not be taken lightly. But first our own health warning about what these figures are – and are not. Unlike NHS data this includes care homes and incidences of COVID 19 “at home”. The data is prepared to 12 September for cases (although different dates are used for some of the other figures). The reason for this delay is to keep the numbers accurate. The daily totals published by the NHS are subject to constant revision, as not unreasonably, the data is constantly being updated to improve accuracy. It is also worth noting that the SCC area does not include North Somerset (so Weston hospital) or BANES (So the RUH in Bath) both of which are separate administrative areas.

The data has been expanded this week to look in more detail at confirmed cases. This is to provide comparison with the rapidly rising number of cases nationally. Overall the figures for Somerset do not look too worrying. 58 new cases have been identified taking the total for Somerset since the beginning of the outbreak to 1,485. Whilst that is again higher than we reported last week, the figures have been re-analysed on a 7 day rolling basis showing recent confirmed cases at:

  • 22 August 19 cases
  • 29 August 30 cases
  • 5 September 47 cases
  • 12 September 44 cases

So the rate of confirmed cases according to the latest figures is already plateauing. Unfortunately this is not the whole story. As we reported earlier this week following discussions with Public Health England the following were asked to self-isolate:

  • 220 Year 7 pupils and 195 year 11 pupils at Bishop Fox’s, Taunton
  • 61 Year 6 pupils at Parkfield and 7 staff
  • All children and staff at Mama Bear’s Nursery

We know that most parents have not been able to access tests for their children. When Cllr John Hunt raised the issue he was inundated with comments from anxious parents unable to access testing. So while the numbers of confirmed cases remain manageable, even encouraging, until those who are self isolating are tested, it is frankly not possible to draw any firm conclusions.

Of course that does not mean things are indeed out of control. If all the children concerned tested negative for instance, the data as it stands remains encouraging. The anxiety is that we simply do not know.

What is much clearer are recorded deaths occurring in patients who have been diagnosed with COVID 19 28 days before death. That number remains at 206 for the SCC area with no new deaths in the week from 28 August to 5 September. And for context, from 24 July to the 5 September there have only been 5 deaths in the area from COVID 19. That at least suggests some control over the outbreak. Or perhaps a change in the impact of the virus.

Again looking for some encouragement in the numbers, the south west remains one of only three regions of the country where the R rate range goes below 1. The range now quoted is 0.9-1.2. Of course if it was at the upper end of that range, the number of cases will be growing more rapidly than the figures currently tell us. Again the range is simply too vague to draw firm conclusions

AS ever we have the compete dataset for you to take a read of and draw your own conclusions

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