We’ve got more data than ever before about coronavirus – so what’s the big picture across York?
At a meeting on Monday (9 November), Fiona Phillips, York’s assistant director of public health, briefed councillors on the latest Covid-19 position.
Back at the peak in April and May, York had up to 17 care homes with Covid-19 outbreaks.
“Those numbers came right down. And in August and early September, we had no care homes with positive cases,” Ms Phillips said.
Now “we do have care homes where they are recording either staff or residents who have tested positive”.
But that’s partly due to a lot more testing. Since the end of August, York is undertaking “routine whole-site testing in care homes”. Every week all staff are tested, and every month all residents are tested.
That has seen asymptomatic staff and patients – people with no symptoms – testing positive for Covid-19.
“The situation currently today is that we have one care home in York where they do have symptomatic residents, and they’re managing that outbreak. So we’re still seeing it as positive in York in terms of the low number of symptomatic cases in the care home setting.”
Ms Phillips said that an increase in the number of positive cases followed the return of university students to York.
“That was partly because students were forming new household groups. And you might have a household consisting of 15 or 20 people if it’s halls of residence, for example.
“So what we saw was that a lot of those positive cases were linked to having a positive case within a household setting. And then, once one person had it, it kind of spread within those households.
“After about three weeks of the universities being back, what we then started to see was cases going down. And they’ve continued to go down.”
The number of school age children who have tested positive in York has risen over the last few weeks, but the figure is still “quite low”.
“For any one week, 13 in a secondary school setting is the most that we’ve seen across the whole of York – so fairly low numbers,” Ms Phillips said.
The council supports schools to undertake contact tracing so entire year groups or bubbles don’t have to isolate.
“There’s not been much evidence that there has been transmission within the school setting.
“So where we are getting pupils who have tested positive, it generally has related to either somebody else within the household – a parent, for example, has tested positive – or it’s been a social event that they’ve been to outside of school where there’s been a positive case.”
“The number of hospital patients who tested positive has been increasing,” Ms Phillips said.
“These are mostly patients who are in general and acute beds within York Hospital.”
To be clear, these figures include all patients in hospital who have tested positive for Covid-19 – not all of them were admitted because they contracted the virus.
The number of coronavirus patients in intensive care “has remained quite low. And we’ll continue to monitor that and hope that it stays that way.”
At the moment the hospital does have ICU bed capacity available. “We’re not at that point where we’re saying the hospital can’t cope.
“But obviously, we know there are other hospitals in the region that are reaching that point. So we’ll we’ll continue to monitor that.”
Test and trace
“We saw our positivity rates peak at the end of September,” Ms Phillips said. “It was up to about 18%, which was a worry to us, and we’ve gone higher than the regional and England rates.
“That has started to drop down now. But it again, it’s one of those key indicators that we will monitor. The World Health Organisation advises that you should have a positivity rate of around 5%. So that would be ideally what we would be wanting our rate to look like – we’ve got a way to go there.”
In terms of contact tracing, the national team has got in touch with 78% of cases.
The council’s local team follows up the cases that the national team has been unable to get in touch with.
“Overall, we’ve successfully been able to contact 82% of those cases that the national team has been unable to get in touch with.
“We are currently operating on a Monday to Friday basis. But as we get more staff in place, we’ll be looking to do that over a seven day time frame.”