One year has passed since Orange's first confirmed case of COVID-19 and, despite vaccinations beginning last month and the entire state now virus-free for more than 50 days, there has been an increase in testing rates recently.
In the last four weeks up to 8pm on Monday, there had been a total of 2,051 tests across Orange's various sites at a rate of 48 people per 1000, that number revealing a rise compared to exactly one month earlier.
On February 8 it sat at just 37 and had declined rapidly after reaching a high of 79 immediately after a virus scare in January, when a health alert was raised after a man who dined at Birdie Noshery and Drinking Est tested positive.
The slight rise keeps Orange's testing rates among the best in the state despite Western NSW's being among the lowest and, surprisingly, comes after at least one of the city's testing sites reduced their hours.
The NSW testing rate remains at 46 people per 1000 with Western NSW's sitting well below that at just 29.
The slight rise also comes as the federal government prepares to begin Phase 1b of its Pfizer vaccine roll-out, which will include adults aged 70 years to 89 years, healthcare workers, Indigenous Australians with an underlying medical condition and critical and high-risk workers.
General practice doctors will be involved in the next phase of the roll-out, Minister for Health and Aged-Care Greg Hunt confirmed, with 4,500 expected to be involved in helping to more-widely administer jabs from March 22.
"More than 1,000 general practices will commence(vaccinations) from March 22 with a rapid scale-up over the following four weeks. This will ensure efficient and equitable distribution of vaccines across the country," he said.
Phase 1a of the vaccine's roll-out began on February 22 nationally with residents and workers at Ascott Gardens aged-care facility becoming the first people in Orange and the Central West to receive their jabs a few days later.
The first jabs were administered in Orange just shy of a year after the first three cases were confirmed in the city on March 10, 2020, which NSW Health confirmed after a wave of speculation among the community.
The number of confirmed positive cases in the city slowly climbed in the weeks following before, on April 1, the first death related to COVID-19 complications was confirmed at Orange Hospital.
The virus continued to impact the city, region, state and country heavily until, finally, lockdown measures were put in place. Following that, a number of alerts were raised including a confirmed case in July, a student at Charles Sturt University.
Another was raised much later in the year and linked to the much-maligned Northern Beaches cluster in late December, just weeks before the latest scare on January 5.
Testing is still available at a number of sites in Orange:
- Orange Hospital (12-4pm Saturday to Sunday)
- Bloomfield Medical Centre (8am-12pm and 1-5pm weekdays - book online)
- Orange Showground (8am-4pm weekdays)
- Emus Rugby Club (8am-12pm Monday-Saturday)
- Douglass Hanly Moir Pathology (10am-3pm weekdays - booking required via 1800 026 622 or 9111 3405).
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