Wexford under Level Three restrictions
If there were any lingering doubts that we are firmly in the midst of a second wave of Covid-19, they were quickly banished on Thursday evening as news broke that Wexford had seen one of its biggest daily increases in confirmed cases since the pandemic began, with 23.
It only took a couple of days before we saw the same figure again - another 23 new cases added to the county total on Sunday.
The last time we saw numbers anything like this, was back in April and there's been a lot of water under the bridge since, with both positives and negatives to take. However, the alarming spike in cases so far in October will be a major cause for concern as all the talk appears to surround a return to complete lockdown.
In the first eight days of October, Co Wexford saw an increase of 70 confirmed cases of the virus. To put that into context, we saw the same amount of cases in the first eight days of October as we did for the entire month of August. In fact the past week has been the worst seen by Wexford, in terms of increasing cases, since the pandemic began. We've seen a total of 107 cases in the first 10 days of this month. Frighteningly, we've seen more cases so far in October than we have in March, May, June and July combined!
Breaking things down by electoral areas, for the 14 day period up to October 5, Gorey fared the worst in the county with 25 cases. Enniscorthy followed on 21 with Kilmucridge on 18, New Ross on 9, Wexford on 5 and Rosslare on 6.
While the figures are frightening, there are positives to be taken too. Wexford still sits towards the bottom of the table in terms of confirmed cases, with only Kilkenny, Longford, Waterford, Carlow, Sligo and Leitrim sitting below us at the time of writing. Further positives can be taken from the fact that hospitalisations have remained relatively low. In fact, for the majority of the first week of October, there was only one single confirmed case of Covid-19 on site at Wexford General Hospital. However, with double figures being added to the county total five days in a row last week, towards the end of the week it fluctuated from one to three and then back down to two people hospitalised. One of these patients remained in critical care at the time of writing.
Early last week, there were concerns over the inavailibility of both critical care and general beds at Wexford General Hospital. Mixed messages from the HSE perhaps added slightly to the confusion. On one hand, last Tuesday morning the HSE's Covid-19 Daily Operations Update showed that the number of critical care beds available at the hospital had dropped to zero. Only one of these beds was occupied by a Covid patient. This number rose by one the following day, however, the report also stated that only one general care bed was available.
Despite the publication of these figures, the message coming from Wexford General hospital was that there was still capacity available at all times. A source close to the hospital noted that they had been 'particularly busy' early in the week, but stated that it was 'beginning to ease off'. While not disputing the accuracy of the daily HSE update, the source did add that despite the number of available critical care beds dropping to zero, there was always an additional bed available for both Covid and general patients.
Although on Friday night, the daily report showed there were no general care beds available at Wexford General Hospital, the next report showed that as of 8 p.m. on Saturday night, 18 general beds had become available. It's unclear whether this was as a result of patients being discharged or whether additional capacity was opened up.
Earlier in the pandemic, works were carried out on Ely House in Ardcavan to allow it to take patients from the main hospital should the need arise and last week it was reportedly only being used for day cases and some age related cases to take pressure off of Wexford General.
Concerns are rife over the capacity of Wexford General Hospital to deal with a traditional winter influx while also battling Covid-19 on another front.
In an interview published in this newspaper in recent weeks, Acting General Manager at the hospital Linda O'Leary said that as a result of the pandemic, they could no longer have a situation where people were waiting on trolleys in the hospital corridors for medical attention.
Once again it has been stressed that people should avoid attending the hospital's Emergency Department unless absolutely necessary and they should first contact their GP or pharmacist for advice.
With Wexford being elevated to Level 3 along with the rest of the country, and our incidence rate continuing on an upwards trajectory, the gardaí, the HSE and the council are all asking members of the public to adhere to the guidelines at all times. Most of all though, the importance of personal responsibility is being stressed. Calls are being made for us to once again change our behaviours and re-double our efforts to stem the flow of the virus. People are asked to remember the simple things - wash your hands well and often; cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing; limit contact with others and maintain physical distancing and wear a mask or face covering where appropriate.