• Expected peak smaller than before due to social distancing
• About half of Västerbotten corona deaths are in Umeå
• Hospital worker’s union and region stuck in negotiations about summer holidays
• Chances of hospital staff-to-patient virus spread “very, very small”
• Student Union will host live Valborg broadcast with popular local musicians
ÅLIDHEM – Umeå’s predicted coronavirus peak — that is, the time when the health care system is expected to be most burdened by coronavirus patients — has been moved from mid-May to June, regional officials said at a press conference this afternoon.
Speaking with Umeå Today, Västerbotten senior doctor Anders Johansson said that the later peak is also expected to be smaller, because Umebor have been following national social distancing guidelines. A smaller peak means less burden on the city’s clinics and particularly Umeå University Hospital, and therefore more treatment resources for each particular patient. However, Johansson emphasized that the peak would only stay smaller if people continued to follow the guidelines.
“What controls how high the curve goes depends on how close physical contact people of all ages have with each other. People in all age groups” — including children, he said — “should stay more distant.” Umeå Today has repeatedly reported on Umeå residents gathering very close to each other at, for example, barbecues or in the city center. Asked whether they were breaking guidelines, Johansson said that they were — although not breaking the law.
Johannson also tempered his comments about the peak by clarifying that “a prediction is a prediction. It is about the same as a weather prediction.”
Some 12 days ago, officials said they expected the peak in mid-May and plan to have 50 intensive care beds ready for patients around Västerbotten at that time. Currently, 13 patients are in intensive care in the county, with 20 in the hospital and 299 confirmed cases, according to the officials. 14 patients in Västerbotten have reportedly died from coronavirus, a number which has not changed from yesterday.
Until about a week ago, Västerbotten officials would publicize the approximate age, underlying health conditions, and location of each patient who died. However, they stopped giving this information for the last four deaths, making it impossible to say how many patients in Umeå specifically have died. Infectious diseases specialist Gunilla Persson clarified to Umeå Today that “about half of deaths” in the county have been in Umeå — which would bring the number to about seven.
Johansson told Umeå Today that a primary reason that location of death has not been given is because reporting deaths in Västerbotten’s smaller municipalities — such as Bjurholm or Robertsfors, which have about 2500 and 6500 residents respectively — can violate patient privacy, as it may be easier to guess who the patient is. “It’s one thing if a death is in Umeå,” Johansson explained, “but it’s another thing if it is in a town of 10 000 people.” Umeå’s population is almost 130 000 people.
Johansson added, however, that officials, over time, will aggregate these statistics and paint a fuller picture of the geographical spread of coronavirus deaths in the region. Five days ago, Umeå was announced to have the most coronavirus cases in Västerbotten.
Västerbotten’s health and medical director, Brita Winsa, said today that negotiations are “intensive” but “stuck” between unions and the region about when health care professionals can get summer holidays.
A source who is a hospital clinical worker told Umeå Today that “Most of my colleagues are having difficulties getting their summer holidays approved. Region Västerbotten wants them to continue working.”
Last week, Winsa told Sveriges Radio that “we hope and believe that we will get some sort of message next week” on health care professionals’ summer holidays.
The source also said last week that “a patient is awaiting a test result after having contact with a health care worker who tested positive for COVID-19,” the disease caused by the virus.
Umeå Today asked regional officials whether there is a chance that the virus could spread from staff to patients in the hospital. “One can never say that there is no risk,” replied Winsa, “but it is very, very small, because workers are very thorough with hygiene, protective equipment, and so forth.”
The Umeå Student Union told Umeå Today this morning that it will be hosting a special social media live broadcast of Valborg, the festival which marks the arrival of spring and is usually celebrated with a bonfire, which this year was cancelled because of the pandemic. Union Vice President Tommy Nyberg said that the broadcast would start at 3:30 in the afternoon, and will have live performances from popular local musicians such as Gnarley Charlie, Jannike Stenlund, Soul River, Svindel, Supersonic Boom, and JAMBB.
“When most people see problems, we see solutions at the Student Union,” Nyberg wrote. “We hope this will be appreciated, because what we already know now is that the future belongs to streamed events.”
Sveriges Radio is also planning to offer an online Valborg celebration, creating a “giant choir” with listeners all sending in videos of themselves singing the traditional Valborg song Vintern rasat (“The Winter has Fallen Apart”).
Hanna Nordin contributed to the research for this artcle.