Friday, March 5, 2021
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Map of coronavirus cases in Umeå and Skellefteå. -Umeå Today, Fred J.

Umeå Has Most Coronavirus Cases in Västerbotten

• Skellefteå has highest rate of cases per capita; new death announced • People with other illnesses not seeking enough treatment, officials say • Umeå clinics introduce new mobile phone app with virtual doctor visits • Forest fire risk increases as barbecues rise in popularity during pandemic • Newspaper political editor’s controversial coronavirus opinions inflame social media debate • Folkets Hus declares a financial “emergency”
  • Skellefteå has highest rate of cases per capita; new death announced
  • People with other illnesses not seeking enough treatment, officials say
  • Umeå clinics introduce new mobile phone app with virtual doctor visits
  • Forest fire risk increases as barbecues rise in popularity during pandemic
  • Newspaper political editor’s controversial coronavirus opinions inflame social media debate
  • Folkets Hus declares a financial “emergency”

ÅLIDHEM – Umeå has more confirmed coronavirus cases than any other town or city in Västerbotten, regional officials said today at a press conference, as they urged residents to go to a clinic if they feel sick in any way, saying that many people are now hesitating to do so during the pandemic. The officials did not provide the exact number of cases in Umeå, but said that there have now been 254 confirmed in the whole county. 20 are in the hospital, with 12 in intensive care, and one more patient has died, the officials announced today. Västerbottens-Kuriren reports that hospital management said the patient was in his or her 80s and died in the hospital, but the newspaper did not specify which hospital, and Umeå Today was not able to independently confirm this. This brings Västerbotten’s death toll to 12.

Despite Umeå having the most cases, Skellefteå has the highest rate of cases per capita, officials said. Umeå’s land area is less than half the size of Skellefteå’s, so the geographic concentration of coronavirus infection is higher in Umeå. Officials did not specify Skellefteå’s actual case rate, but national health authorities predicted this morning that by May 1, 26% of the population of Stockholm will have been infected by the coronavirus.

In contrast, officials in New York, one of the world’s worst-hit cities, have predicted that about half its population will eventually contract the coronavirus.

Only one in 75 infected people in Stockholm are actually tested and found positive, and the day when the largest number of people in the city was infected already passed two weeks ago, national statistics suggest. This is despite widely-cited modelling which shows that Sweden’s — and Umeå’s — coronavirus peak is due in mid-May. The “peak” is defined as the time when the local health care system requires the most resources to fight the pandemic.

During the press conference, Västerbotten health director Brita Winsa said that “we see a drop in how many people are seeking medical attention, and we really want to encourage anyone who needs care to seek it.”

“This applies to the acutely ill,” Winsa said, “and especially those with heart problems or stroke symptoms. Not seeking treatment can have serious consequences.”

The region released financial numbers today showing that the total amount of money spent on health care dropped by about 8% in March, with a decrease of 14% in primary care. This was due to “cancellations of non-emergency treatment”, according to regional comptroller Per Sehlin.

To encourage people to seek care, the county is launching a new mobile phone application called “Mottagning Region Västerbotten” (Reception Västerbotten Region) which allows patients to have video visits with health professionals, and send text messages and images. Some 15 clinics are piloting this project right now, Winsa said. The application also offers advice on “anxiety, stress, depression, contraception, sexually transmitted diseases, and eating.”

Regional employees in Umeå are working rapidly to manufacture more protective equipment — particularly plastic protective smocks — for clinicians. These items are in shortage right now. Since Monday, teams of cutters and welders have been creating and packaging some 1000 smocks a day, with the goal of raising that number to 4000. The work is being carried out in secondary schools closed due to the pandemic, the region said.

Västerbotten Service Director Tommy Svensson shows a locally-manufactured coronavirus protection smock. -Region Västerbotten

At the beginning of this month, Umeå University’s Curiosum science center led a project to have the public 3D-print hundreds of protective masks for health care workers.

A new danger has arisen, around Umeå, due to coronavirus: forest fires. Dry, sunny weather has increased their risk in southern Norrland, according to the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB). Officials there are worried that since people are socializing in the woods rather than crowded areas on account of the virus, the chance of accidental forest fires will increase. TT quotes the agency’s special counsel, Svante Werger, as instructing people to “be careful in the forest and countryside. Take responsibility.”

The increasingly heated debate about Umebor overlooking social distancing regulations escalated today with a widely-circulated editorial by Västerbottens-Kuriren’s longtime political editor, Ola Nordebo, entitled Come On Now, Umebor, Hang in There and Take On a Little More Responsibility. In it, he points out that — consistent with the observations of Umeå Today readerscitygoers are “crowded, dense, and seemingly carefree”.

People crowded together on Monday afternoon at Rådhustorget in central Umeå. -L. Okonski
People crowded together on Tuesday afternoon at Rådhustorget in central Umeå. -L. Okonski

“The Swedish approach to the coronavirus crisis has been insightful, well-balanced, sustainable, and attractively anti-authoritarian,” he argues. “But it has always required society to practice a large responsibility.”

“Do not show irritation to the person who keeps a slightly exaggerated distance in a queue,” he writes, “but rather to people who push on regardless, wheezing into the people in front of them.”

The editorial produced an impassioned reaction in social media, with Facebook commenters pushing back over being instructed to follow such recommendations when others are not observing them.

“How are we supposed to hang in there, going back to work, when our workplace has 800 people?” asked one reader.

Another wrote that she saw “a full parking lot and plenty of people of all ages at Biltema this weekend.”

One complained that “Young people think they’re immortal! They’re not!” to which someone else responded, “It is only the pensioners or elderly who aren’t showing responsibility.”

“It’s not the fault of the authorities that individuals act like idiots,” opined one commenter, which met the reply, “Authorities are there for intervening when people are not able to follow regulations.”

Finally, Umeå’s Folkets Hus is under “emergency” financial strain, national managers said today. Folkets Hus, which host public cultural events, are run at the state level and are losing revenue dramatically across the country. National Folkets Hus CEO Calle Nathanson told TT that cities and regions cannot wait for state aid, and should help to bail out local Folkets Hus on their own. Today, Folkets Hus started a social media campaign under the hashtag #varskavimötas (where shall we meet), to try to inform the public of the scope of the problem and possible solutions.

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The seriousness of the coronavirus crisis has again become a topic that requires news coverage for everyone in Umeå, whether or not they speak Swedish. Umeå Today has, therefore, returned to its original mission of covering the crisis, and you can find updated information here on our webpage. Meanwhile, Umeå Today is planning to launch its 2.0 products, including The Umeå Handbook and Umeå Sunday, a weekly multimedia newscast, in early 2021. In addition to covering the crisis, we will be blogging here about the development of Umeå Today 2.0.

Erik Campano, Editor-in-chief


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