- Two more Västerbotten deaths; 220 confirmed infections, 22 in hospital
- No more “generous” testing for Umeå hospital medical staff
- Watch a video tour of Umeå’s new coronavirus intensive care ward
- Secondary school students to get free lunches starting April 27
- Local dance teacher offering free online classes during pandemic: “Nothing is better than seeing my students happy”
Two more deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, were announced by regional officials this morning. One patient was in the intensive care unit in Umeå University Hospital and was in his or her 70s. The other, in his or her 60s, passed away at home, but officials did not say in which town or city. Both also reportedly had underlying health conditions.
This brings the total death count for Västerbotten to 10. The last coronavirus death in Umeå was announced a week ago.
The total confirmed cases has now reached 220, with 22 in hospital. The region says 10 of these are in intensive care, but national statistics differ, putting that number at 21, 13 of whom are in Umeå hospital.
Region officials also revealed today that, due to a shortage of tests, medical staff will starting tomorrow no longer be tested for the coronavirus to the extent they have been. Instead, healthcare workers will be treated the same way as all other patients, the officials said, and only be tested in conjunction with infection tracking, or if they display symptoms.
Officials did, however, confirm that they will return to testing healthcare workers more frequently if the now limited supply of tests is increased.
“Region Västerbotten is working intensely to produce more sampling sticks,” officials said, “and we will return to testing staff more generously as soon as we have secured access to more material.”
The hospital announced this morning it has finished building a new intensive care ward for coronavirus patients, after less than two weeks of construction. The new ward is now fitted to be able to provide care for up to 13 COVID-19 patients when it will be opened this week. Another ward is also due to open this week for coronavirus patients, but that one will not be for intensive care.
Göran Caspersson, the head of the new intensive care ward, explained in a video made by the hospital how the ward was built in such a short space of time. Umeå Today has translated the video:
“Many times people complain about the slowness in the region, and in healthcare” he said, “but when there’s an emergency and this organization really wants to, it has incredible muscle. And it really shows that in one and a half weeks you can get together anything that is needed.”
“What’s been really nice about all of this is whenever we’ve asked for help, whether it’s been from caretakers to woodworkers, to plumbers to transport to pharmaceuticals and logistics, everyone is eagerly jumping to help.”
He also talked about plans to develop another similar ward in the hospital.
“The work doesn’t stop; this is just the beginning,” he said. “We worked very hard all last week, and the week before that, but we’re already starting to gather resources to create another ward like this.”
Meanwhile, this morning, the national Centre Party (centerpartiet), including local representative Ewa-May Karlsson, released a statement about primary care reform to improve the long-term stability of the Swedish health care system.
“The work to strengthen Swedish health care is currently ongoing around the clock in broad political agreement and at all levels,” the party wrote. “The situation we are in is unique and requires unique action. However, Swedish healthcare is also in great need of long-term, powerful reforms.”
One of the main changes the party is advocating for would involve everyone having a specific doctor that would be that person’s first contact for medical issues.
“One of the most important steps to get there is that you and I get a regular doctor contact, whom we know by name,” the statement continued, “and who knows us and our needs, or what we needed help with in the past.”
The party also stressed the importance of healthcare in rural areas like those just outside Umeå.
“In order for the care to come closer to all people, it must also be easier to perform care in rural and sparsely populated areas,” the party wrote. “It must be possible for more smaller care units, consisting of, for example, a doctor and district nurse, to be able to offer primary care through flexible solutions and digital tools,” the statement concluded.
The city of Umeå announced this afternoon that it will be distributing lunches to secondary school students starting April 27. Students at Dragonskolan, Forslundagymnasiet, and MajaBeskowgymnasiet will be able to pick up these lunches at the some 20 city primary and secondary schools, while Midgårdsskolan students will be able to get them at its restaurant, Eurest in Umestan.
“By giving students the chance to get lunch at their nearest school, we hope to reduce the risk of infection, while giving them the opportunity to have school meals,” said city official Lena Karlsson Engman, a Social Democrat. Two weeks ago, Liberal, Green, and Left Party leaders called for a lunch programme for secondary school students during the pandemic, particularly for those who are from families which are struggling financially.
Anastasia Potehina is a dance teacher, stretching and fitness instructor living in Ålidhem, who, like many, has had her business affected by the pandemic. When her schedule cleared up after she was forced to cancel many of her classes, she decided to give back to the community by providing free exercise classes online for people to follow along to at home.
Umeå Today reached out to Potehina to find out why she decided to help others who also feel stuck at home, and how she is reacting to the coronavirus situation.
“Before coronavirus, everything was at the common dance studio. I had four dance groups and was teaching on Sundays and Thursdays,” she told Umeå Today.
“Right now, we don’t have classes in the studio — it has a ’prolonged Easter holiday’ until April 19. But afterwards, the decision was taken to have classes only in big rooms and no more than 15 students. Some groups are too big, so we have to divide them in half. And some classes were just cancelled. It is a very difficult time for the studio,” said Potehina.
Umeå Today asked her how the coronavirus crisis was affecting her, personally.
“It’s affecting me badly,” she replied. “I lost my job in a hotel; I was an extra worker there. But the hotel is almost empty, so all the extra workers had to quit. Then the studio had to close for a while and now instead of having four dance groups, I’ll have just one. I was very lucky to save some money just before it all happened.”
Potehina also explained the decisions that led her to start running online dance classes.
“Since I’m on self-quarantine right now, I spend 99% of time at home. But my body isn’t used to that, my muscles are ‘crying’ for some workout and stretching, so I decided to do it at home. But then I thought that there are probably many people like me, who are locked at home but want to exercise and keep their body in good shape. So I made a decision to help those people, and organize an easy online workout, and stretching sessions for free,” she said.
“I’m going to do it anyway on my own,” she continued, “so why can’t I do it together with people who also need it? I can teach them how to do it since I’ve been doing it for years. This way I can kill two birds with one stone: I do what I like to do, and I help people during these harsh times.”
“I love to have my students get some exercise, and there is nothing better for me them seeing them happy afterwards, and to have their positive feedback, which makes me happy,” she added.
Potehina says she is still hopeful despite the crisis, and is determined to look for the good in face of the bad.
“Coronavirus, like any other virus, is an awful thing,” she said. “It is scary, and it shows that society isn’t ready for an outbreak like this. But from another perspective, it can teach us a lot. It pushes us towards freelancing, towards studying, meeting and doing business online — business that can work, even from home. And I believe that a dance studio can work like that as well, and I would love to check out whether that’s possible. In some ways coronavirus has inspired me.”
Anyone can access Potehina’s online workout sessions, she told us.
“I’m inviting everyone to exercise and stretch together,” she concluded. “It is open to everyone, no matter their age, gender and experience. And it is for free right now. All you need to do is to be in our Facebook group ‘Stay home in a good shape’, and click the link on its wall when the class starts.”