• Richard Cree

Command & Control

Updated: Dec 16, 2021

15th December 2021

UK COVID Deaths – Daily 165 / 7-Day average 115

Total UK COVID Deaths within 28 days – 146,791

Total UK Deaths with COVID-19 on the death certificate – 170,911 (up to 3 Dec)

James Cook Hospital – Total COVID deaths – 720

All COVID cases within South Tees Hospitals Trust – 44

James Cook Critical Care

COVID cases – 6 (6 ventilated)

Non-COVID cases – 46 (25 ventilated)

As of yesterday, the hospital is on something of an emergency footing. NHS England has taken command of every hospital trust in the country in order to coordinate the health service’s response to the ever-growing number of Omicron cases. Once again, we are back to working out how we will manage the anticipated wave of admissions. The whole situation is eerily familiar and, like the beginning of the first wave, we are carefully watching what is happening in London. We know all too well, that what happens there will surely happen here.

There were a record 78,610 new cases of COVD-19 reported today but the true number of cases is believed to be much, much higher. The Omicron variant looks to be responsible for over half of all new cases in London, meaning it is already the dominant variant in the capital.

Locally, the picture is much better; there have been 100 cases confirmed in the North East of England and it is estimated that the Omicron variant is currently responsible for 5-6% of all COVID-19 infections in the region. As yet, no Omicron patients have been admitted to our hospital. The number of Delta patients we are admitting remains low and the number of patients within Critical Care has remained static. To be honest, I had expected that we might be seeing more Delta admissions by now and I’m delighted that the number of such patients in the hospital has continued to fall. Perhaps we have reached a point where the level of immunity within our local population is finally enough to stop most hospital admissions? If so, then it’s very disheartening to know that this level of immunity won’t be enough to stop Omicron.

The public is still clearly divided on their opinion of just how much of a threat the new variant presents. Many people are understandably concerned - long queues are to be found outside vaccination centres and Christmas parties and restaurant bookings are being cancelled in their droves. Even if they don’t anticipate becoming seriously ill, many people don’t want to risk the chance of an Omicron infection ruining their holiday plans.

Others are accusing the Government of over-reacting to what they believe will turn out to be a much milder disease. I dearly hope they are right. Unfortunately, as yet, there is still no objective evidence that Omicron causes fewer hospital admissions than its cousins. Even if it does turn out to be a milder variant, this would not be especially comforting given the sheer number of infections that will occur. Whilst ‘milder’ respiratory viruses, such as influenza, parainfluenza or respiratory syncytial virus, may not result in the same degree of direct lung inflammation, they are often complicated by secondary bacterial pneumonias and many people still require hospital treatment.

So, we still don’t know how many people will be admitted to hospital or how many of those that are admitted will require CPAP or ventilation. It may be that it is A&E and the acute medical wards that will bear the brunt of the Omicron onslaught. In the meantime, the plan is pretty similar to the one we rolled out for the first two waves. We need to know that we can find more beds, more nurses and more ventilators, whilst hoping that we won’t need them. All eyes are on London’s hospitals now. How they fare in the run-up to Christmas will begin to give the rest of us an idea of what we’re up against.

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