And so it begins...
And so it begins...
My phone rang at 8.30 last night and even before I had answered it, I knew. It had begun. We had our first formal Covid 19 diagnosis.
To be fair, although I had been anticipating the call, it still came as something of a surprise. I had predicted that the first resident to be diagnosed with the virus would have been one of our children: after all, they are far more active and sociable than most of our adults, roaming the site more widely and mixing with their peers at school (although we have for a while been teaching them in residential groups rather than their normal classes in order to minimise the risk of cross-infection). That’s where I had thought it would start.
In fact, it was one of our adults rather than one of our children, and someone from one of the homes where we had put our most stringent protective measures in place. My first thought was that there had been some clear breach of our processes. But when I enquired further, the picture began to make more sense. Far from being one of those who did not travel beyond the home walls, there had been regular trips to outside organisations over the previous few weeks. Strikingly, these had included a spell in hospital two weeks before for the very same problem – a chest infection – that had resulted in hospitalisation again at the start of this week.
Not knowing quite what else to do, I set off back to work. By the time I reached St Elizabeth’s, Jill and Sue had it all under control. The family was already up to speed, all the staff who had provided direct care and nursing had been identified and told to self-isolate, the house (which had already been deep cleaned three days before after the initial referral to hospital) had been given another deep clean, and all the other residents in the house had been checked over for signs of any symptoms. Everyone was well, everywhere spotless, everything ordered.
And, strange as it may seem, that sense of calm has carried on today as well. Yes of course, there are some staff members – and certainly some parents – who are expressing worries. That is exactly what we would expect. But alongside that there is a feeling that at least the phoney war is over: the virus has now arrived and we are able to face the enemy we have been fearing. There is also some satisfaction that the plans we had spent so long formulating have been tested out and proved up to the job; indeed, when we notified Public Health England this morning as we are obliged to do, they were extremely complimentary about how we were handling things.
So we are into the second phase of the pandemic. The first phase – delaying its arrival on site (avoiding it altogether was not a realistic aim: if the virus can hit Prince Charles, it certainly can hit our residents) is over. What we now have to do is to prevent singles instances becoming patterns. So in that house, we are into full protective clothing (insofar as we have it; supplies are still an issue), isolation and everything being cleansed to the point of erosion. Elsewhere, we are redoubling our efforts to prevent transmission, helped by the fact that our staff now know (if they ever doubted) the threat is real, is happening now.
Most important, we are monitoring the health of all our residents. The person who now has the diagnosis, who has been in hospital for the past three days, is out of our hands and we can only hope and pray that the infection will be a mild one. But the others are still in our care. And they are what matters.