The latest figures published for the Somerset County Council area show a steady rise in COVID cases but nothing like the exponential rise experienced in other parts of the county. The latest figures produced to 23 September show 26 new cases reported. That takes the total since the outbreak of the pandemic to 1,511.
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 23 September for cases (although different dates are used for some of the other figures – for instance deaths are reported to 11 September). 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.
Interestingly the number of new cases is smaller than we reported last week when 58 new cases were noted. The trend is levelling off. However that in itself is no reason for complacency.
The numbers of infections in schools is both worrying, but also, an inevitable consequence of opening them up. Infections have been reported at Bishop’s Fox Taunton, Parkfield School, Mama Bear’s Nursery, Brookside Academy (Street) and Crispin School also in Street.
In all cases the guidance is for all infected year groups to self isolate at home until they can get a test. And as we have reported before, therein lies the problem. As long as testing is proving difficult, if not impossible to get, then large numbers of children will miss out. The point of reopening schools was to ensure pupils did not miss out on education.
Right now it is hard to avoid the conclusion that too many are missing out anyway. Unable to get a test, and potentially causing family members to need to self isolate too. The danger from the pandemic is bad enough. But if the testing problem is not resolved soon, we will have economic and education paralysis.
Better news comes with the figures for deaths. As noted above, these figures are only to 11 September. However no new deaths have been recorded and the total remains at 206.
If we take the overall picture for Somerset, the outbreak appears well managed (subject to testing availability). The impact to date is much lower than in most of the rest of the country. That should mean we can maintain our ability to keep our economy open and avoid the more stringent lockdowns now being experienced in South Wales and the North East.
However Somerset County Council are warning that a large proportion of the cases seen in the past two weeks have come from the Mendip area. Trudi Grant, Somerset’s Director for Public Health, told us “This is another stark reminder of the paramount importance in remaining vigilant and following the government guidance as we see increasing cases across Somerset, particularly in the Mendip area. Public health teams continue to support communities, businesses and schools, providing advice and guidance on what to do if someone starts to show symptoms or tests positive.“
It is a wake up call. At least it should be. We have avoided the worst so far. But if the public do not remain vigilant, follow guidelines around hygiene and masks, we could be faced with more severe restrictions. A local lockdown in Mendip would be unwelcome as it would anywhere in the county. What happens next remains in the hands of the public.
As ever we have attached the full dataset released this week so you can draw your own conclusions