There isn’t much in the way of surf in Cairns because the Great Barrier Reef is – ahem – a great barrier. Nevertheless, this year heaps of people who live and work in Cairns showed how skilled they are at big-wave-surfing.
The Queensland borders did not open until Monday 13 December 2021. This allowed every adult who wanted to get vaccinated the opportunity to do so. Comparing what happened locally to what’s happened elsewhere around the world, it’s clear that having more than 90% of the adult population with some vaccination coverage before opening the borders made a huge difference to how high and long the Cairns omicron wave has been.
In Cairns our COVID-19 omicron wave started slowly. There was just a trickle of COVID-19 positive people who required hospitalisation either side of Christmas 2021. From early in the New Year the omicron wave behaved more like a tsunami. The wave came in much faster and was much larger than most of us had anticipated. It was pretty scary. Two thirds of the way through January some of us were worried about drowning. At that stage we had three wards 100% dedicated to caring for COVID positive patients, plus a smattering of positive people in other wards and in ICU.
Much to our relief the wave crested and crashed nearly as quickly as it arrived. At the end of the first week of February we still had three COVID-dedicated wards, but they weren’t quite as full or as intense as the week before. A week later we were down to one ward 100% dedicated to COVID. A week after that we had zero wards 100% dedicated to COVID; positive patients were being nursed in negative-pressure rooms as per pre-pandemic practice. Amazing.
In Queensland, especially in Cairns, we know we’ve been very fortunate compared to many people and places in the world, but that doesn’t diminish the admiration I have for all the big-wave-surfers at work. Don’t forget, as argued previously [here] , they are NOT heroes – they are health professionals. Heroes tend to be blokes who are big, boofy and fictional. People in the hospital working with COVID patients are mostly women who are not-big, not-boofy and they are real lanyard-and-PPE-wearing nurses, ward clerks, cleaners, wardies, physios, doctors, specchies, OTs, security and catering peeps.
Despite the lack of practice we have with waves in Cairns there are heaps of really good big-wave-surfers here. This is evidenced by how gracefully and expertly they surfed the omicron wave. 🏄♀️
Not All Good News
It would be disrespectful not to acknowledge that it’s not an entirely good news story. The wave has diminished in size and strength, but has not disappeared yet. Also, some of the people who were hospitalised with COVID during this period have a very slow, difficult pathway towards recovery. Poignantly, twenty seven local people did not survive COVID during this period. Their families and friends are in our thoughts.
Data Sources: The hospital/ICU numbers were released every few days via internal “Team Brief” emails and/or via social media – these were the sources of the data used to create the chart above.
Thanks for reading. If you know someone who has surfed that omicron wave I’d be grateful if you make sure they get to see their portrait above. 🙂 🏄♀️
As always, feedback is welcome in the comments section below.
Paul McNamara, 22 February 2022
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