The mayor of New Plymouth has found himself at odds with the Taranaki Public Health Unit on modeling the potential impact of a delta outbreak in the province.
Neil Holdom warns of the potential for thousands of infections, hundreds of hospital admissions and more than 50 deaths over a year, meanwhile, professionals take a much more optimistic view.
Using a spreadsheet, Holdom has taken the figures from Professor Shaun Hendy, a model of government, and applied them to the 2.5% of New Zealand’s population who have Taranaki.
Even taking as a starting point that the province is 85 percent fully vaccinated, the figures he posted on Facebook are disappointing.
“Assuming the vaccine is really effective, potentially 55 people in Taranaki would die over a 12-month period and the most worrying thing, I suppose, is that the peak [hospital] the required beds were 29 beds “.
Holdom said that Professor Hendy’s figures indicated that more than 11,000 people in Taranaki could become infected in a year or just under 10 percent of the region’s population and hundreds would be hospitalized.
The mayor was concerned about the implications for health services.
“For every bed, you have four or five nurses to handle that bed for 24 hours and we know, from what we’ve seen in Auckland, that as soon as a nurse or any of the medical professionals tests positive, it’s not just removed, it’s it’s often other people on their shift, and therefore they lose those staff on the margins. “
Taranaki Medical Health Officer Jonathan Jarman and the Public Health Unit have taken a more “optimistic” approach to their model.
He has analyzed what a delta outbreak would look like for 100 days if it arrived in the region today and assumed that the vaccination rate will increase to 90 percent during that time.
“And what we found was that the maximum number of daily cases that would be detected would be 32 people per day and the maximum number of hospitalized patients at any one time would be seven and the maximum number of people in the ICU would be two.”
The current double injection vaccination rate for the general population in Taranaki is approximately 67 percent.
Dr Jarman said that no model was perfect, but that the Public Health Unit took Taranaki’s specific factors into account and looked beyond the Auckland outbreak.
“We also looked at Waikato and they have managed to curb this type of increase in cases and in fact there has never been more than one person at a time in the hospital and they have had Covid in their community for more than a month.”
Even when 90 percent of those eligible were fully vaccinated, a quarter of the Taranaki population, including those under the age of 12, would be susceptible to Covid-19, said Dr. Jarman.
Most people susceptible to it will likely become infected within the next year or two, he said.
However, the Public Health Unit model was silent on the number of potential deaths.
“We didn’t look at deaths. Personally, I don’t think focusing on death is particularly helpful. We were looking more at the impact on the healthcare system,” said Dr. Jarman.
“I think focusing on death unnecessarily scares people. I think we really have to focus on what the impacts will be on our services and our community.”
Neil Holdom didn’t think it was alarming.
“Do you think the government would have spent $ 50 billion if they weren’t scared?
“All of this Covid response has consisted of reducing the death toll, reducing health impacts, but also realizing that not only will Covid generate deaths and suffering, they are those who await knee or hip operations or surgery or treatment of cancer or even to visit specialists have diagnostic material analyzed.
“Our healthcare system was under stress before Covid. Now it is under massive stress, so the health impacts will not just be about people getting sick and dying from Covid.”
Holdom hoped that discussion of the various models would provide additional motivation for the unvaccinated to take a hit and help protect health services.