Cllr. Mark Deaville introduced the following visitors:-
Cllr. Johnny McMahon – Staffordshire County Councillor, Cabinet Member for Health, Care and Wellbeing; and
Dr. Richard Harling – Staffordshire County Council Director of Health and Care.
Cllr. Deaville confirmed that the local response to the pandemic was the best response, stressing the importance of communication via the Outbreak Control Board in both directions.
Cllr. McMahon advised that the Staffordshire Moorlands’ virus, virologists rate was currently 243 per 100,000 population, having peaked at 339 in mid November and then dipped to 192 before reaching the current level. Newcastle-under-Lyme was broadly in line, while the current Stoke-on-Trent figure was 319.
The ”Hands – Face – Space” message was paramount and thanks went to communities for maintaining the message. A main concern was for the Over 85’s, with Lateral Flow Testing (LFT) being introduced in Care Homes for Patients and Staff, initially at the rate of 1 to 2 times per week increasing to daily in an effort to bring the care home rate down.
With the recent emergence of a new strain of the virus, virologists considered that the vaccine already being administered may only need to be tweaked in order to cope. The NHS had the responsibility to administer the vaccine, but SCC were able to help with locations and personnel where required.
Dr. Richard Harling gave a presentation by way of ‘Shared Screen’ with a summary as follows:-
1. New strain of the virus had emerged and was spreading rapidly in London and the South East of England;
2. Staffordshire case rates were increasing across all districts and boroughs;
3. Hospitals locally remained under pressure, around 350 beds were occupied by Covid-19 patients at UHNM;
4. Around 900 incidents were being managed countywide – these were cases, clusters and outbreaks in a range of settings;
5. Testing demand was rising as Christmas approached;
6. Asymptomatic community testing continued to be rolled out in a range of settings;
7. Vaccination had started in small numbers;
8. Staffordshire was in the ‘Very High Alert’ Tier 3;
9. Important that everyone continued to follow the rules to minimise the spread of the virus.
Members raised queries which gained the following clarification:-
LFT tests – False negative results were given in between 23% and 50% of cases. This was explained to people at the test site. PPE was needed when visiting Care Homes even if the result was negative, though this was not compulsory. Deaville agreed to raise this point at the Outbreak Control Board meeting later the same day.
No actual timescales for vaccination had been seen yet. The estimate was that, if the Astra Zeneca vaccine was approved soon, most high-risk people would be vaccinated by the end of March. However glitches in the supply chain had already been experienced.
Schools had responded magnificently. Regular briefings were held with teachers and support given where cases arose, advising who needed to self-isolate. There were currently 432 incidents being managed.
Patients with allergies were able to be vaccinated, though a longer period of observation was necessary to monitor any potential adverse reaction.
If bad weather etc prevented a patient from attending their 2nd appointment, a 2 to 3 day delay was ok. If the delay was any longer than that the patient may have to start again.
In the event of this area moving into Tier 4, travel was to be limited as much as possible. The journey itself was not the problem, but any ‘mingling’ at the destination most certainly was.
It was seen as very likely that we would go into national lockdown n the very near future.
Data collected from the testing process was improved recently over earlier in the pandemic, though no occupation information was collected.
Anecdotal evidence had been collected that people were travelling to test centres from other areas. This situation would be monitored to see if it happened at scale. The alternative was to have further I.D. checks at test centres which may deter people from attending.
Weekend test sessions were planned over the Christmas / New Year and attempts were being made to staff sessions in the evenings.
Mobile Testing Unit (MTU) locations were a closely guarded secret.
Parish Clerks would be contacted where possible when MTU’s were being set up.
GP’s held the clearest, most accurate information to establish who should be prioritized for vaccination.
The Chair thanked Cllr. McMahon and Dr. Harling for their attendance and for the information they had given.