Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader of Pendle Council, David Whipp, offers his perspective on COVID-19 in his area in his local newspaper column.
I wanted to start this column on a positive note. The best thing that I could come up with is that, ten minutes after emailing last week’s column, both Tom and I received negative results for our COVID-19 tests. We are relieved! Infection hasn’t passed through us to those around us. We carry on with our work and home lives.
For hundreds of people in Pendle it’s been a very different story this past week. Between 400 and 500 people have received news of a positive test in the last seven days. At the very least, symptoms and confirmation of the infection will have caused stress and strain. There will have been a shared anxiety about whether the illness has spread to friends or family members more vulnerable to the disease.
In a few cases, these last seven days have seen several Pendle families hearing the worst, as loved ones have passed away from COVID-19.
There is a relentless increase in the number of people hospitalised with the disease in the North West. In the past four weeks, the number of beds occupied with COVID-19 patients has risen from below 500 to over 2,000. In Lancashire, the number of beds occupied by C-19 patients has doubled in the last 10 days. There’s now talk of elective admissions and procedures being at risk as NHS staff shortages begin to affect hospital capacity.
The number of people needing mechanical ventilator beds has gone up more than fourfold in the space of a month, from below 40 to 186 as of Tuesday this week. Our Intensive Care Units are under severe pressure. One option being discussed is to create a ‘virtual’ ward, where some patients would remain at home with remotely monitored pulse oximeters alerting hospital staff if there was any deterioration in someone’s condition.
In brief, the picture in Pendle and the wider region is bleak.
Looking at other aspects of our lives, the scene is no better. Over 8,000 pupils and around 800 staff are off school through being positive or self-isolation across the county. Several Lancashire schools have had to close completely. The half-term may be an essential break in more ways than one.
There’s doubt on all sides about the effectiveness of the Tier 3 measures (I’ll bite my tongue on that one... For now.) But with conditions so critical, it’s vital that we do everything in our power to prevent the disease from spreading as best we can.
Fortunately, we all have that power.
Each and every one of us can keep our distance from others, we can be scrupulous about washing and sanitising our hands, we can wear face coverings when needed and we can self-isolate if we thing we have the disease or may have been in contact with someone who has.
These are all things we can do as individuals. Some things are easy. Keeping our distance from family and friends is hard.
If we want fewer people to have the worst of news about a family member in the coming weeks, it’s crucial that we do take the steps now to cut the rate of infection.
Please take care. Please keep yourself and others safe this week. Together, we can get through this.