Surge in over-80s testing positive for Covid-19 in Devon care homes

A stock image of two elderly people.

Around one in five of all positive Covid-19 cases in Devon in the past week were in care homes, according to new statistics.

Steve Brown, Devon’s Director of Public Health, told a Team Devon Local Outbreak Engagement Board meeting on Thursday 14 January case rates in over-80s have increased in recent weeks - with some large outbreaks within care homes.

Based on the week of specimens from January 2 to January 8, over-80s in Devon had an infection rate of 396 per 100,000 population - the highest of any age range.

Stats show that in Exeter case rates per 100,000 for the over 80s are at 693, 445 in the South Hams, while in Teignbridge, they are 728 - with rates for the over 90s in Teignbridge at 2,069.

One in five positive cases in Devon have come from care homes.

Mr Brown said: “We are seeing increasing in outbreaks in care homes and have had some significant outbreaks with 70% or 80% of residents or staff testing positive. Some are asymptomatic but some have symptoms and in hospital, and about 20% of Devon’s cases are care homes.

“It is important to re-emphasise the stay at home message and to stay at home unless it is essential to go out, but every time you leave the front door, you risk coming into contact with someone who may have Covid and could be a crucial link in chain of transmission.”

Simon Chant, Public Health Specialist, added that while Devon’s case rates were the highest they had seen, they were still only a third of the rate of the national average with some positive signs that growth in cases has slowing.

He said: “It needs to be treated with a bit of caution as rates have fluctuated over Christmas so too early to know definitively if the peak has happened, but there are promising signs at the moment.

“But we have seen a big increase in the 80+ cohort where there is a greater likelihood of hospitalisation and more severe outcomes for the age group, and we are seeing outbreaks in care homes again.”

Despite the spike in cases, there is hope numbers will fall in the coming weeks.

Asked about the presence of the new and more transmissible variant of Covid-19, Mr Brown said while they do believe it is present in Devon, it is only being found in a relatively low number of cases.

He added: “Only about five per cent of tests are sequenced, and we think it is in Devon, but the numbers relatively low, in around five to 10 per cent of cases. The worry is that if does become the dominant strain, things can escalate quicker, so the public health measures don’t change, but we should more of it and be better at doing it.”

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