- Umeå patient one of three new virus deaths in Västerbotten
- 157 now confirmed infected, with 24 in the hospital and nine in Umeå intensive care
- Umeå University pandemic expert: “remember to keep up compassion” during crisis
- Military convoy brings emergency supplies overnight from Stockholm to university hospital
- Amidst pandemic, recycling increases dramatically in the city
ÅLIDHEM – The Swedish Armed Forces arrived in Umeå this morning to deliver coronavirus-fighting supplies to the university hospital, where the first pandemic-related death in Umeå occurred today, according to regional officials.
The person who died was in his or her 80s, and had pre-existing medical conditions, officials said, without specifying the patient’s gender. The death occurred in the intensive care ward of the university hospital.
Regional infectious diseases specialist Gunilla Persson, who has been giving almost daily press updates for weeks now on the coronavirus, sent her strongest message yet to Umeå residents about trying to stop the spread of coronavirus and COVID-19, the disease it causes. “Several cases of COVID-19 have been found in social service care and nursing homes,” she said. “We must do everything possible to curb the spread of infection in the community, and to protect the elderly and frail, who are at most risk of serious illness.”
In addition to the death in Umeå, the death of two more coronavirus patients was announced in Västerbotten today. One of them was a patient in his or her 90s in Vindeln, some 60 kilometers upriver from Umeå. The other was in Malå, further north. Both patients had pre-existing conditions and both died in isolation at home, officials said. Just yesterday, the region announced that coronavirus had been found in patients or staff in unspecified nursing homes in Vindeln and Malå, as well as in Umeå.
The total number of people who have died from coronavirus in Västerbotten is now four. The first death occurred on Monday.
Regional officials also announced this afternoon that the total number of cases of coronavirus in Västerbotten has risen by 12 to 157, with 24 in the hospital. 11 are in intensive care, nine of them in Umeå hospital, according to national statistics.
Umeå residents are now dealing emotionally with a new stage in the pandemic: the presence of coronavirus deaths in their own city. Umeå University Professor of Ethnology Britta Lundgren, who specializes in the social effects of pandemics, wrote to Umeå Today that “we have all listened to the news for several weeks about fatalities from the COVID-19. We should be used to it, but people are not completely rational human beings. In fact, rationality and emotionality are closely intertwined.”
“We react emotionally, which is very understandable, when the abstract figures reach our own city, maybe our own neighbourhood, and also maybe family, relatives and friends,” she continued.
“It is of utmost importance that we listen to the recommendations, that we keep up the social/physical distancing, no matter our age or other factors,” she wrote, concluding, “but it is also very important to remember to keep up the compassion, and not forget to care about people while keeping distance. We will have to find new and safe ways to create togetherness. That is both an emotional and rational response to the crisis.”
The national military arrived this morning in Umeå from southern Sweden, bringing supplies to help the hospital to combat the growing health crisis in the city and region. An Armed Forces transport unit brought some 1300 protective suits and 2000 face masks. The Stockholm headquarters ordered the equipment last night, and it was brought up overnight by truck along the coast via Härnosänd and Östersund.
“It feels good to be able to help out the health care system, which is doing such an incredible job right now,” Roger Vennberg, the head of a local military logistics department, told Västerbottens-Kuriren. “As part of the defense forces, we should be acting to support the community in crises like these.”
Military General Micael Bydén, meanwhile, wrote a letter to the entire Swedish military thanking soldiers for their service during the pandemic, and telling them to prepare for the situation to increase in difficulty.
“Many have lost a close relative, and many their employment, as a direct consequence of the virus,” he wrote. “Others work sacrificially to care for the sick, particularly vulnerable persons, and those in risk groups.”
“The situation can change rapidly, and differ from one part of the country to another,” he wrote.
“The coming Easter weekend usually means, for the vast majority, a few days’ rejuvenation. For many, this year, that is not possible. My thoughts, therefore, go to families who are not able to gather, whether due to health care work, the risk of spreading the illness, or a son or daughter who does not have the military’s permission,” he wrote. “Or, that the worst has happened, leaving a chair empty at the Easter table.”
In the midst of the stories of suffering reported in Umeå today, some positive light appeared on one aspect of life: the environment. City residents are recycling in record numbers, waste disposal officials today told Sveriges Radio. The recycling center has had 2,000 more visits through March than it had the year before, they said. Peter Grönholm, who managers the recycling center in Klockarbäcken, said “we suspect this is because so many people are laid off, or are working from home.”