EVERY time I hear the government say “living with covid” I get annoyed with the banality of their words and their attempt to soften the blow of the reality.
Softening the blow can be a good thing, but when I hear local people say “hopefully we won’t get any cases”, it means the truth has been delivered so softly it has been completely missed.
The reality is we will have many, many local cases and we will all eventually be exposed to the covid delta strain, even living in regional Australia. With the current speed the delta virus is spreading across the state – coming into contact with it could be soon.
But exposure to the virus does not have to be frightening, because most people will only have moderate flu like symptoms and since we now have a vaccine, the risk of being hospitalised is dramatically reduced, along with the risk of needing intensive care or dying from the disease.
So below I have decoded the soft speak of government to ensure people understand the reality, but MORE importantly to understand they can take a very simple step stay safe and protect the people they love, but they need to take those steps now and not continue to “wait and see” what happens.
Decoding government covid speak:
- We need to learn to live with covid = suppression for this virus is no longer working and everyone will eventually be exposed to the virus.
- Please get vaccinated = we are going to try and suppress it for a bit longer, so that people have time to get vaccinated.
- Don’t wait for the Pfizer vaccine = There is not enough Pfizer to go ’round and by waiting for it, you run the risk of getting the virus before you get Pfizer.
- The Astra Zeneca vaccine is a good vaccine = don’t wait for the Pfizer vaccine. The risk of dying from an incredibly rare blood clot (less than 1 in 1,000,000) is even lower in Australia because people are aware of the rare side effect and treatment is available. The risk of being hospitalised with covid is at 11 percent (more than 11 in 100) and the risk of ICU is 2 percent (more than 2 in 100). Your odds of staying above ground and out of hospital and ICU are overwhelmingly better if you get an Astra Zeneca vaccine.
- We will relax restrictions at 70 and 80 percent = we’ve done some maths and predict that at 70 and 80 percent we will just have to deal with the consequences on the health system and we accept that many people will be hospitalised and some may die. We have to take the band-aid off at some stage and how fast we take off the band-aid is still being decided, but the band-aid is definitely coming off, brace yourself.
- We will decide what restrictions will be eased based on the best health advice = we have lots of health experts analysing modelling day and night to predict how many people will be hospitalised if we change one of the variables, such as allowing people back to the pub. And every variable has variables, such as – what if we allow people back to the pub, but only if they are fully vaccinated and only if they are sitting down and there is no dancing? So then the health experts recalculate and give their prediction for every situation imaginable. And yes variables, being variables, do change and so will the modelling and so will the restrictions.
- 11 percent of people infected require hospitalisation = In a population of 5,000 we expect 550 people will need to be hospitalised. We don’t have many beds at the local hospitals and they will only be able to care for you, while they arrange a transfer to a major hospital. At the moment that will be the John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle, but if wards are reaching capacity then you may be transferred to any hospital in the state.
- 2 percent of people infected require intensive care = In a population of 5,000 we expect 100 people may need intensive care support. There is no intensive care unit in the Upper Hunter Shire Council area. You will be transferred to the John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle, but if ICU is stretched, then you may be sent to an ICU bed in Sydney.
- Covid is placing pressure on the health system = There are only so many ambulances, hospital beds and ICU beds in the state. The more patients we have, the fewer beds available. They are predicting not too many people will need an ambulance and an ICU bed at the same time.
The statistics released each day on covid can be overwhelming and the reality that coming into contact with the virus is inevitable can be confronting, but the feeling of knowing you have received both doses of the vaccine is a huge relief. Knowing that you have just dramatically reduced risks to your own health and risks to others makes the numbers you see released each day far less frightening.
But I will always be concerned about how the virus will impact everyone in our community, including our local hospitals and frontline workers. At the moment, I am most concerned for people who think the virus won’t reach here, or are waiting to get the vaccine they prefer. People need to know the truth that “living with covid” is not confined to living in Sydney, we will all be living with covid, no matter where we live.
Editor of scone.com.au