Murrumbidgee Local Health District (MLHD) Chief Executive Jill Ludford has said that testing numbers in the district are “outstanding”, with no new cases of Covid-19 detected in the MLHD since early August as of Thursday.
“I do want to thank everybody across our region for coming forward and being tested,” Ms Ludford said during a press briefing on Tuesday. Since the beginning of the pandemic, over 49,000 Covid tests have now been completed, with 44 people recovering from the virus.
The last time Covid was reported in the MLHD was on August 3 when four people from the same household in Wagga Wagga tested positive.
These four cases remain active, as do three cases in Albury, one in Cootamundra-Gundagai, and one Junee resident in Sydney hotel quarantine.
Ms Ludford said that the MLHD is currently working with the 89 aged care facilities across the district to prepare for the event of a Covid outbreak.
“We’ve all been watching the news and the media and we know that people who live in a residential aged care facility are one of our highest most vulnerable population groups,” Ms Ludford began.
“Our job now is to work collaboratively with publicly funded aged care facilities to have really strong plans in case we get an outbreak in our region.”
Across the border in Victoria, sadly 161 aged care facilities have experienced Covid infections, and 280 residents have passed away.
Ms Ludford said that “every single provider” in the MLHD has come forward to join in the collaboration towards preparedness.
Strategies involve infection control protocols, staff training, outbreak management plans, ensuring a good stock of PPE, scenario training “to make sure our plans are robust”, and sector outbreak response teams “so if there’s more than one outbreak in a facility, that we can send the expertise in to react quickly and get on top of any potential risk of transmission into our community,” Ms Ludford said.
The MLHD is also working with the various aged care facilities to ensure the viability and availability of the sector’s workforce.
According to Ms Ludford, in Victoria approximately 50 per cent of the aged care workforce is either infected with or affected in some way by Covid-19.
“We have to have alternative plans about how we’re going to step in and provide that additional workforce into a residential aged care facility,” she said. These alternative plans are being developed as part of a Workforce Surge Plan.
Anthony Flaskas with NSW Health Pathology said that the testing laboratory in Wagga Wagga conducts around 300 tests a day, and is part of a network conducting 13,000 tests daily.
He said that the current turnaround time for tests completed locally is around 12 hours. The laboratory has been conducting tests since April and Mr Flaskas said it has “seen an improvement of around 36 to 48 hours in results” in this time period.
“We’re quite proud of that and the team of scientists and technical staff here in Wagga have been working around the clock to achieve those turnaround times,” he said.
“I think they’re fantastic results.
“It helps us keep our local community safe and informed.”
Riverina Police District Commander Bob Noble said that a big focus of NSW Police right now is ensuring that licensed premises are following CovidSafe guidelines.
“We have in the last several weeks regrettably had to issue over $50,000 worth of fines to licensed premises around the district,” Supt Noble said.
“We’re not bragging about how much revenue we’re raising, that’s not the point. The reason I say that figure is to illustrate firstly, there is a problem with compliance; secondly, that police are extremely serious about enforcing compliance.
“If licensees and operators of restaurants and so forth will not comply with public health orders, it’s critical.”
Anyone who is feeling unwell is encouraged to present for testing. Those who are tested will need to remain in self-isolation until they receive the results of their test, which usually takes around 30 hours and can be received via text message.
Tests can be arranged by calling the MLHD Covid-19 hotline on 1800 831 099, or the GP-led Respiratory Clinic located at the Railway Precinct in Tumut on 6947 2211.