University urges caution as cases reach their highest since early February

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The University has urged caution in the face of a rise in Covid-19 cases in Durham. In the seven days to 9th June, the number of new confirmed cases in Durham City MSOA (which includes most of the city and University, but not Gilesgate or Neville’s Cross) was up by 32, or 400%, on the previous week.

The “rolling sum” of cases in Durham City for the week to 9th June is 40, the highest since early February, and higher than the rolling sum of the previous six weeks combined. This represents a significant rise on figures from 2nd June, which had a rolling sum of eight. However, it pales in comparison to last October, where the figure reached 1002.

In an email today from Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Global) Claire O’Malley, she noted the “rising number of cases amongst our student community”, urging students to “remember ‘Hands, Face, Space, Fresh Air’ and continue to take two LFTs each week to help protect our community”.

The data only shows confirmed cases from PCR tests or LFTs, and hence does not show the number of households currently isolating due to exposure with an infected person or living in the same household. The effect on the student body, especially on events, is likely to be much more significant than a figure of 40 would imply.

Several colleges have a significant number of households isolating. Members of at least four flats in each St Cuthbert’s and Hatfield are currently isolating with active cases, while members from five out of the 17 households at St Chad’s college are currently isolating. There are at least three cases at St Aidan’s, and members of at least three households in St Mary’s are isolating.

As a result of the “test to release” scheme, there may be members of some of those households who do not currently need to isolate. Last week, Durham County Council warned the University of “potential clusters” of Covid-19 cases among students in the city.

Statistics for MSOAs, which is the level of detail required to see the case rate in Durham City, are as of 5 days before the data was released. Since the data was updated yesterday, the most recent weekly data is from the seven days to 9th June. Since the data shows an exponential growth in cases, the current numbers are likely to be much higher.

Durham City, based on data from the week ending 9th June, has a rate of 276.4 per 100,000. That compares to a rate of 53.2 for County Durham as a whole.

Positive cases can be from an LFT or PCR test. Data at the local level is not adjusted to remove those who test positive through an LFT, but then negative with subsequent PCR tests within three days. That is not true for County Durham as whole: if someone with a positive LFT gets negative results from PCR tests taken within 72 hours, that is not counted.

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