Dear Bellingen Shire
22 December 2020-12-20
And Happy Hanukkah, and Christmas, and Summer Solstice, and Bodhi Day, and Maghi-Lohri, and Geeta Jayanti , or whatever this time of the year means to you.
To the environment of the Bellinger Shire it means a big drink – and lots of the above mentioned beautiful, peaceful (though noisy) green eaters of mosquitoes. How the natural world thrives in response to cues in the environment is inspiring. Last week with water over the road we watched a large eel wiggle across –heading upstream to a little paddock gully! At least someone is really happy.
But, of course, that is not why I’m writing to you.
“I have to confess I got it wrong. I thought that we were in good shape for Christmas and was planning to grasp a break. Our plan lasted as long as the average New Year resolution – overnight.”
OK this is a kind of back handed confession but I just wish our political leaders were not feeling so constrained and could also be able to do about turns quickly – when it really matters.
We are back to the same position as in March. The best advice on controlling an outbreak is to “Go hard, Go fast”. And yet our state is dithering! The epidemiologists are pulling their hair out (and some don’t have a lot to pull).
Once again – like Victoria – each time there is a break out we have just one chance to prevent a catastrophe.
If you have not seen the news, there is a significant Covid19 outbreak in the Northern beaches of Sydney, with tendrils creeping across the Greater Sydney area, into the Central Coast and west. Officially 70 cases as of Sunday. People in the “Red zone” have been asked nicely to present for testing (very many are), wear masks when out (some are) and not move about too much (the Pacific Highway North was bumper to bumper today). A lot of people from the “Hotspot”, “Red Zone”, “Epicentre”, are already here in the Bellinger Shire or on the Coffs Coast. Hundreds of thoughtful and admirable souls have already been presenting to The Coffs Harbour Testing Clinic over the weekend.
And we are a few days out from 2 predictable super spreading events!!
“Is there a risk of this expanding? Absolutely!! The first cases were only found 4 days ago and the incubation period for Covid 9 is up to 2 weeks, with the first week often minimally symptomatic, while maximally spreading virus particles. And we don’t yet know whence this outbreak comes, apart from it being reported genomically as a US strain.”
So the numbers will continue to rise. Remember the case numbers today reflect what happened 2 weeks ago. The fatality rates follow in a month or so.
BUT — as a community we have been prepared for this. We have been warning all year that there will be outbreaks and then quiet times. You know what to do from before. Stop physical contact, increase hand washing, restart social distancing, wear masks when out and antiseptic wipe down of anything coming into your household.
The biggest danger is to be complacent, especially when all the exciting talk is about the vaccines being approved. However, they will not be available to us in Australia for months into next year, and there is still a lot of reporting and testing to go on in parallel with their roll-out in US and Europe.
I will be wearing masks again in the shops, while encouraging all counter staff to do the same. Please check with your medical practices if you have appointments this week and into January, as we may need to redirect more consults on line, or go back to tight screening of everyone before they enter our buildings. This may be inconvenient, yes. But medical practices are where sick and vulnerable people are to be found!!
So we will continue operating the Bellingen Shire Covid 19 screening clinic this week in Watson St, Bellingen. We have no idea how busy it will be, so in advance I apologise if you have to wait in a long queue of cars snaking around in front of St Mary’s school. Instead, have a thought for us in our full giggle suits and shields and masks in 36*. I think I lost a litre of sweat in the ¾ hour on Friday morning.
Regarding the Bellingen Covid-19 Clinic- hours are 9am-10 am Monday-Friday. (Closed Xmas, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day). If we are lucky and the soft shutdown from Sunday seems to work, then there might still be space for a break. Coffs Hospital clinic will continue to open 830-430 week days, till 2.30pm weekends, and only close on Christmas Day and New Years Day. The Macksville clinic I think will be similar. Please check the I Love Bello Shire weekly newsletter for any changes in the Covid Clinic opening hours.
If you are hosting visitors from Sydney, please be careful and help them know where to get screened. You may also remind them that the screen they had on Friday can be a false negative if really early in the incubation time, so if there are even mild symptoms please present for rescreening.
All business owners need to look carefully at their Covid 19 hygiene and screening policies and revamp them. You do not know if the next visitor you serve has been in contact and in the incubation period, because it’s likely they don’t yet know themselves.
Now we also need to help relatives, friends, and especially young folk to understand the need for resilience and adaptability. Half of the news reports I’ve seen have displayed people angry and frustrated at the change of their plans. We all share that. Our dear friends from Tasmania have cancelled Christmas with us as their state is moving quickly to shut borders, and my son and daughter and son in law will most likely be unable to get across the borders to us. This sucks! It pales into insignificance when looking outwards, with news today that in the UK they are reporting 35 000 cases a day. Their hospital system is at capacity.
Around the world on Saturday over 10 500 people lost their lives to covid19 in 1 day!!
I was speaking with an old friend yesterday about his 21 year old son’s anger. The recurring theme was “Why me??!! Why did this have to happen during my Uni degree? This is not fair!?” Herein again lays the fertile ground for conspiracy.
I have felt a concern rising that, while we have happily experienced a couple of generations of economic growth and forward confidence, we have not learnt as a society the lessons of history. Instead we are educated in expectations by media – especially Hollywood media. It teaches that there are trials and crescendos, then there is a resolution or happy ending, and we go on our merry way. I first noticed this in the “Gulf War” in the 1990s. The campaign seemed to be operating along a Hollywood script, except the extras – ie the Iraqi people – had not read the script. So we had bombs and resistance and looting of priceless museums and Syria and Isis etc. The same feeling is rising now.
A virus is not a punishment, an anthropomorphised message, a sentient entity that understands fairness or justice. It just IS. It will propagate and mutate and find a weakness then, ultimately, equilibrium in its adapted host species. But as with frogs and eels and rain, most of the universe is not really under the clever control that we think we have.
So, like all the rest of human history we need to set new aspirations, reset expectations, look for new opportunities in the wash. The catch is to not be swallowed by the wave. This is a long haul campaign in which a simple happy ending has not been scripted.
Please be careful in your quiet, reflective, Holiday period.
And check any details with your own GP, who might also be holding their breath, biting their fingernails, or maybe just calmly know a whole lot more. They have been studying you for a long time.
Dr Trevor Cheney