By Staff Writer
The case of a Year 2 student at the Red Bay Primary School testing positive for COVID-19 was the focal point of a specially-called press conference on Friday.
The student was one of six new confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported from a batch of 255 tests bringing the number of confirmed cases in Cayman to 220.
Hon. Premier Alden McLaughlin described it as “a very concerning situation” but said any decision regarding whether the school will go into any form of lockdown will depend on the outcome of the testing, tracking and tracing which is being carried out by Public Health Cayman.
Those results were expected later on Friday or by Saturday.
Giving an update on individual case and general ongoing COVID-19 testing, Chief Medical Officer Dr John Lee reported that the student was “weakly positive” meaning that no aggressive symptoms were being displayed.
He explained that the child has “symptoms related to a respiratory illness and for this reason, we are classifying it as the case as positive.”
"One confirmatory test has been negative on the same child, so this is why I'm getting further investigations, but we are being exceedingly cautious because of the nature of where this child is, obviously at school and of the number of people," he added.
A Public Health team was dispatched to the school and had taken around 200 swab tests from students of the Year 2 group as well as others, including schoolmates, parents teachers and other staff.
The CMO reported that the parents and sibling all tested negative.
Swabs have also been taken at the National Assistance Unit(NAU) where one of the parents is employed.
Premier McLaughlin also quickly quashed rumours that the NAU was being closed because a parent of the student was employed there.
He clarified that the offices were due for previously planned deep-cleaning by the landowners in the coming week and urged persons to desist from spreading false rumours.
Mr McLaughlin, in whose constituency the school is located, said while the situation was very concerning, he hoped that the public would have been reassured by the government's and public health response.
Regarding any further decision to be taken on whether the school will be forced into lockdown he said, “If in fact, this turns out to be a false positive that would be wonderful, but we do believe we are justified in erring on the side of caution.”
He spoke about a 'year group bubble' being put in place as a precautionary step with parents of those students also being tested.
“We have been guided all along on the basis of the science that I believe in large part is responsible for the tremendous success we have seen so far,” the Premier stated.
He added: “We have not responded to public opinion or to public pressure in making decisions and the decision about what happens with respect to the school, in other words, whether it reopens of Monday or not will depend very much on the results of the testing that is underway now.”
He was however mindful of the likelihood of a different outcome, indicating that the government was preparing for all eventualities.
“God forbid if we wind up the situation where they are five or ten persons in that 200 plus 4 that are positive then we know we have a major issue on our hands and the government will respond accordingly.”
A further update is expected, possibly during the weekend, on the outcome of the ongoing investigation and testing.
“I know everyone is concerned about particularly the parents of the children and the teachers, so I'm just asking you all to try to be patient and to believe as you have that we are acting in the public interest.”
Similar sentiments were expressed by HE Governor Martyn Roper.
“Clearly it’s a matter of concern but the government is acting out of an abundance of caution,” he said, adding that “we should all remain calm and keep this in perspective” while further test results are awaited.
He said the governments was being “surefooted, proactive and decisive in putting the health of everyone in these islands uppermost in their considerations."
The Governor said that the public should not be alarmed when cases like this pop up as the COVID-19 is a very complicate virus “and no country in the world has been able to go for a very long period without something popping up.”
He also commended Public Health Cayman for their rapid response saying “we have the ability, the capacity, we have the skills to respond to these issues, clamp down on them and isolate them."
Hon. Min of Health Dwayne Seymour said the government was praying for a speedy recovery for the student, and again referred to the various personal preventive steps for residents to take to keep the virus at bay.
In a statement issued earlier on Friday the Ministry of Education, Youth Sports, Agriculture and Lands (MEYSAL) said since the reopening of schools all year groups were placed in containment bubbles as a safety measure.
Acting Director of Education Services, Ms. Tammy Banks-DaCosta said: “We understand any concerns parents may have about their child and family at this time and would like everyone to know that we care and are proactively managing the situation with the entire school body’s health, wellness and safety as our top priority.”
The ministry said it had previously provided all parents and guardians of government schools with a bulletin in March this year that detailed what the infection control practices for the COVID-19 Coronavirus are and also explained the procedures that parents/guardians should adhere to should their child or ward display COVID-19 Coronavirus symptoms.
It urged parents “to continue to follow and adhere to these measures.”
Meanwhile, Public Health Cayman were arranging for a drive-thru testing on Saturday (October 10th).
CMO Dr John Lee said the public would not need to register in advance for this.