Covid-19 Delta outbreak: Northland health officials planning for up to 95 cases a day

Northland health officials are planning for up to 95 new Covid cases a day after the border with Auckland comes down, but they are confident they can handle any such outbreak.

Northland District Health Board’s Covid Management Plan for the period until the end of January looks at three possible scenarios based on modelling from Dr Gary Jackson of Counties Manukau DHB.

The modelling shows there could be between 230 and 880 active cases in the community at the end of January, with up to 70 possibly needing hospital care.

And NDHB has plans to deal with three potential scenarios from the modelling, looking at the situation until the end of January.

Mark McGinley, NDHB Incident Controller, Covid-19, said there are 218 inpatient beds at Whangārei Hospital. This does not include wards such as Maternity, Mental Health beds, Special Care Baby Unit.

”We currently have eight ICU beds in Whangārei Hospital and can expand to 10 beds, if needed. Over the past two months, ICU has averaged around 40 per cent occupancy. The unit generally fluctuates between 10 and 75 per cent,” he said

”Dr Gary Jackson, of Counties Manukau DHB, had shared modelling with us specifically for Northland that is largely based on the Te Pūnaha Matatini (TPM) paper from June 2021.

”We have also drawn from the TPM paper from Sept 2021 which looks again at some of the assumptions.”

Jackson and TPM have also supported the ongoing understanding and prediction of the Delta outbreak in the Metro Auckland region.

McGinley said there are a wide range of plausible scenarios as to how Covid could develop in Northland over the course of a year.

”For the purposes of planning, we have subsequently chosen to depict three scenarios over 90 days … to end January 2022 and track the development of Covid in Northland against these trajectories.

”We will continue to reset and extend our forecast as we develop more certainty on how the virus behaves within the changing environment. The current trajectory shows that while eliminating the virus in Northland is proving elusive, therefore it should no longer be expected, containment of the virus by all involved in supporting our communities has limited the transmission to within the parameters of the ‘Low’ trajectory.”

The actual trajectory can change over time, and transmission may be limited to the current rate until the Northland-Auckland border is opened to which the seeds of community transmission will be sown.

”Our modelling has guided us to put plans in place to support between 25 and 95 new cases a day in Northland at the end of January 2022. This includes planning for how we support between 230 and 880 active cases in the community at the end of January, as well as between 20 and 70 active cases at the time that may require hospital-level care.

”Our five-tier Covid-19 plan outlines a stepped approach for our response to use wards in Whangārei Hospital. At each tier, an additional ward can be utilised to care for Covid-19 patients.”

At tier five, the plan will provide 121 Covid-19 beds, which is approximately half of the hospital’s inpatient bed capacity.

”We do not expect to need to do this by January 2022,” McGinley said.

”We also have plans that enable Covid-19 patients to be cared for at Bay of Islands and Kaitaia Hospitals. By the end of January between five and 18 patients may require Intensive Care (ICU) level hospital support, and we are planning for that scenario with support from our metro Auckland colleagues.”

However, he said, it is encouraging to see that none of Northland’s Covid cases have required this level of care yet. There is also an apparent reduction in the demand for ICU level care of Covid patients over time in Auckland as vaccination rates have increased and treatments have improved.

The DHB also has a Community Supported Isolation and Quarantine (Community SIQ) model to support Northlanders who have Covid-19, and their close contacts, to isolate safely.

”People who can safely isolate themselves at home will do so, with health and social support to ensure they are safe. Those who are unable to isolate themselves at home will be supported to isolate in alternative accommodation,” McGinley said.

”This is a co-ordinated approach, with DHB, iwi, primary care and other government and community providers providing a range of wrap-around health, welfare and wellbeing services to ensure these people are safe during the isolation period.”

There were two new cases reported in Northland yesterday, both linked to previous cases.

One of the cases is based in Kaitaia and is a close contact of an existing case and has been isolating during their infectious period. The second case is based in Paihia and is a household contact of an existing case.

NDHB Covid response by the numbers:

218 – inpatient beds

8 ICU beds that can be expanded to 10

There are 18 ventilators:

12 in Whangārei Hospital

Three in Kaitaia

One in Dargaville

Two in Bay of Islands

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