Update from the Covid-19 Clinic: Dr Trevor Cheney

Dr Trevor Cheney gives his weekly report from the Bellingen Shire Covid-19 Clinic

Dear Bellingen Shire


First: updating on good and bad news; and then pondering of a dilemma.


Mid North coast still has no known cases of Covid 19!   Even after the protests (which despite all expectations have provided very few cases in the cities), a long weekend, and the outbreak in Melbourne, we are still in our bubble. Our local clinic is still only finding lots of cases of Rhinovirus (a common winter cold) and 1 case of parainfluenza virus.

There has been more media hype about successful trials of treatments. Again hype is to be watched warily. A large study in UK has found that a common cheap steroid medication reduces the death rate in severely unwell patients. But, it had no benefit in mild cases. In fact 4/5 of all cases will be mild. The article has not been peer reviewed yet, and this is still subject to challenge. This is science!

There are currently about 7 new medications in controlled clinical trials at present sponsored by the WHO. Maybe some of these will help, some will be found to be dangerous?? That is the role of a trial. It will be many months yet before we see some results of these trials. And it will be hoped that a different group in a different place can then replicate any finding in another trial of the same substance. This is also how science tries to creep towards reliable answers.

Some evidence that is steady is that hypertension, diabetes and heart disease are still the main risk factors for a rough journey. Hence authorities ask anyone with these conditions to ensure that their management is checked and optimal. There is a Sydney team researching a new way of dealing with blood clots – and this seems to be one of the dangerous events that is part of the covid19 mortality . This is also exciting, Like space travel, it may have much wider benefits.

The debate about facemasks is moving more toward encouraging their use – even cloth masks, but WHO advice is more relevant in a higher risk environment. Australian authorities are still debating the advice as we have a low risk environment so far. You can check out a bunch of pretty fact sheets and also some interesting myth busting cards at the WHO website.

It is nice to see people in Cafes again, though we need now to remember spacing and Covid manners. Hopefully the start up of football will bring some cheer. It is interesting to see, even there, the on again/off again reality that we are now in. It is intriguing to comprehend how you can prevent transmission of disease in fellas hugging and sweating all over each other, while thousands of fans are shouting at each other. But then, fortunately, there are clever people in charge of the football codes paid at least 10 times my pay grade to tell someone else to figure it out.

Black Dog Institute and senior psychiatrists warn us of a wave of post Covid mental heath deterioration and even suicides, especiailly in young people. Now here is something we do have data on. Professor Felice Jakka in Geelong has shown that diet is critical in the mental health of young people. Eat well – mental health gets better, eat junk foods – mental health deteriorates. (yes, Grandma again!!). So if you are looking for a conversation and activity with youth in your house good food education and cooking skills is a winner for health, mental health, money saving.

Now for a different flavour, I would like to present the horns of a very human dilemma that many families have faced through this crisis. We often only see a demeaning sound bite on TV news, or some reporter looking for a sensational angle on the lives of real ordinary people.

In May a noble, elderly fellow in Bellorana lost his long, cantankerous battle with time. He was a war hero from an undeclared war (the Malayan insurgency in the 50s), was uniquely decorated, also was a navigator in the planes that flew through the British atomic explosions in Maralinga and the Montebello islands (see the dramatization “Operation Buffalo” on ABC). He was a successful businessman, had a long single marriage, 5 children loyal, 14 granchildren, and a growing wave of greats. He was the last of his generation and of his air force team. During the shutdown family could not visit – the wonderful caring staff at Bellorana became his family.

In his last week restrictions were eased a little, enabling some family members to be there briefly, to say goodbye and he died 2 days after his birthday.

But the necessary pandemic regulations then banned normal funerals, and enforced mandatory rapid cremation. The family postponed a memorial till July – after the gathering restriction might be lifted again. Yet there will stil lbe tight limits on spacing and social distance rules will be in place. Now the outbreak in Victoria demonstrates the on/off predictions. Indeed the Chief medical officer has said that many of the new cases were contacted from family members visiting each other, though many were already known cases. So how do they go forward?

Suspend grieving by delaying a memorial till next year? But we may be just as heavily in a second, or third wave next year.

Go ahead but be ready to cancel at 1 days notice? Though some mourners will travel a long way to arrive.

Run an outdoors memorial that fits with government regulations?– But that means a marquee of at least 10x 20 M to allow 4square meters per person.

Cancel the idea of a funeral and let the passing of a quietly ignored national hero go unacknowledged?


How important are these events in our lives in a time of crisis? Certainly the caterers who have had no work for months are keen to go ahead, as is the motel taking bookings.

At present the family is planning to have a large marquee in Glennifer, with social distancing staked out, a Concierge in full Personal Protection equipment, temperature checking all attendees, contact tracing recorded, masks and face covers handed out, and sanitiser all over the place, every government regulation ticked, and readiness to cancel in short notice if cases are reported, because 1 outbreak and all the businesses associated will shut down for at least 2 weeks. Even if no one gets seriously ill.

So much costly preparation – but this is an example of the planning that is necessarily part of out new world. This may seem to some to be over the top, but that perspective is easy shouting from our little bubble of no cases. Talk to folk who have family in North America, where they witnessed lines of refrigerated trucks, and mass burials. We are lucky, and we need to work hard to keep it that way.

I know this level of planning because that war hero was my dad.   There are many families who have been robbed by this virus of the opportunity to be there for their elderly relative’s last days. Overseas there have been tens of thousands of families not able to be there for their young beloved’s suffering.

We were getting used to a somewhat whimsical life where we could do mostly what we want, travel where we liked, whenever we wanted. This is the new normal. It is still serious. Our community and nation will survive at strength with ongoing understanding and respect, and caution.


Stay safe and alert


Dr Trevor Cheney


This is one perspective and please check with your GP who knows you and your family and your local conditions.


  • Kathleen Wilson says:

    I’m touched by your words. Hope all goes well with the planned memorial for your dad.
    Visited your area last year and still enjoy reading about your lovely district. Stay Covid free.
    We will visit again one day
    Kindest regards.

  • Deepest condolences Trevor, you Father was a hero in so many ways and deserves better. May he live on in your hearts and minds in the fullness of his presence as his spirit is set free. I hope the event goes smoothly and you have the chance to honour your Dad that he deserves. Thanks for a deeply personal article and having met Felice Jakka – she’s really on to something and is the real deal.
    Best wishes… Pete

  • Linda Pigott says:

    So sorry for your loss Trevor. Your work and dedication to our community has been remarkable during this pandemic now even more so given you and your family’s personal grief. Thank you.

  • Bruce Levy says:

    Thanks for sharing with us Trevor…..notwithstanding the focus on the grim tidings across the media, it is so pleasing that in such times we also get to see examples of when it brings out the best in people. I have no doubt your dear father would be so proud of how you and your family have responded not just in supporting each other through his passing, but also supporting all of us in our community during these challenging times. Best wishes Bruce & Jeannette

  • Lynn Tizzard says:

    So sorry to hear about your Dad, Trevor. I can’t imagine how difficult that time has been for you, along with all the other things that you’re dealing with. Our condolences to you and your family. I hope the sun shines on your Dad’s memorial service.

  • Anne Graham says:

    Our condolences to your family Trevor . Once more you’ve brought home to us very powerfully the necessity of not letting ourselves relax about this horrible virus – and it’s ramifications at one of the saddest times of of our lives. Our thoughts are with you
    Anne and Colin

  • Berry Jones says:

    Thank you for sharing that Trevor. A beautiful tribute to your Dad. I do hope all goes well for his remembrance.
    Thank you for all that you do.
    Best wishes Berry Jones

  • Marg Hope says:

    So Sorry to hear of the passing of your war hero father. Condolences to you and yoir family.
    Its a tough time however we are so lucky to be surrounded in such an amazingly caring community.
    Thankyou for your wisdom & updates.
    Marg & John Hope

  • Helen Badger says:

    So sorry for your immense loss, Trevor.
    Warm wishes
    Helen Badger and Tom Schuf

  • Josee Hennequin says:

    I’m truly sorry for your loss. This pandemic certainly does leave its mark, in so many ways. Thank you for sharing your wise words and perspective.

  • Elaine Ghali says:

    May your memorial be over flowing with memories shared, tears, stories, laughter and heart warming food for the body and soul for all present. Thank you for your support in Bellingen. We are richly blessed

  • Em says:

    Sincere condolences Trevor and Vicky. And thank you for your tireless efforts looking after us all so diligently and with such amazing grace and good humour while this is happening to your lovely household and family. So very tough. X

  • Josée de Mooy says:

    So sorry you lost your Dad and the family couldn’t be at his side these last days. Love to you, Vicky and the rest of the Family. May the memorial service be joyful and shared with all his loved ones. Hugs Josée De Mooy P/S and thank you and the other medical and nursing teams for conducting the testing clinic in Bellingen

  • Margot Pleasant says:

    Beautiful words Trevor. I can see how a man like your Dad raised a man like yourself. He must have been very proud of you and his family. Rich blessings for a memorial filled with love and memories of a life well lived.
    Much love, Margot.

  • Rob Stockton says:

    No words Trevor are good enough but your dad would have been very proud of you all

  • Cynthia Miller says:

    Condolences. Thank you for your story. May I suggest it is sent to one of the agencies recording COVID experiences. I think you can sent them to Australia Post.

  • Mindy Cook says:

    So very sorry to hear of your loss Trevor. Thank you for sharing and reminding us of the delicate line we walk through this pandemic, which doesn’t appear to be done with us yet. Condolences to your family.

  • Juliet Milner says:

    I’m so sorry to hear this Trevor. How beautiful that you shared your dad’s story. All the best for a beautiful memorial x

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