York is at ‘tipping point’ as coronavirus rate rises

Shoppers in York wearing face masks. Photograph: YorkMix

York is at “tipping point” as the government warned health bosses that a sharp rise in coronavirus cases could see the city added to a watch list.

There are fears that if the rate continues to rise, residents are at risk of being asked to live under further restrictions.

Fiona Phillips, assistant director of public health, said: “When areas reach that rate of above 50 cases per 100,000, that’s usually the point where they become an area of interest.”

York has a rate of 55.6 cases per 100,000 for the seven days to 27 September.

At the peak of the outbreak in York in May, an average of 29 new cases were recorded every day.

Yesterday, Wednesday, there were 37 new positive cases. But testing capacity is much greater than it was in May.

“Potentially if cases rise, we could become an area of intervention,” Ms Phillips said.

“On Tuesday we were contacted to tell us we were a potential area that could go on to the government watch list. We are really on that tipping point to become potentially an area of concern.”

All over the city

She said the latest figures show that transmission of the virus is happening all over the city, rather than in any particular location.

Five schools have recorded two or more cases in staff or pupils.

Seven care homes have recorded positive cases in the past 28 days – but fortunately the majority have been asymptomatic and patients have not been unwell.

Several workplaces have also recorded cases – with 10 people testing positive at one site.

From the third week of September, York Hospital has also started to see an increase in patients with coronavirus but Ms Phillips said “at the moment we have not seen deaths follow that”.

Sharon Stoltz, director of public health, said: “Our numbers are continuing to rise and I would expect them to rise further.

“Part of our responsibility needs to be to protect our frontline staff and our care services.”

But she cautioned against scaring people as research shows the virus is most commonly caught between households not following the guidance, saying: “We don’t want anybody to be afraid to leave the house and there’s no reason for them to be afraid if they follow the safety measures.”

A new walk-in test centre is being built and set to open today.

An email sent to students at the University of York says the test centre will open on campus in a segregated and managed area in the Wentworth Way car park.

And it adds that the facility will open from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week, on an appointment-only basis.

York’s public health team will be able to carry out some of the contact tracing – to help curb the spread of the virus.

Ms Phillips said there was a “notable change” in the rate of people testing positive for coronavirus in York at the start of September.

The highest number of cases has been among people aged 20 to 29, followed by residents aged 30 to 39.

York leaders are urging people to follow social distancing advice, the rule of six, wash their hands thoroughly and wear a face covering to prevent the spread of the virus.