Students of Year 2 at Red Bay Primary School will not be returning to class on Monday as they are now required to isolate at home with their parents and other relatives after one of their classmates contracted COVID-19.
The 54 students will remain in isolation for 14 days until the 16th of October, calculated from the date when they are believed to have first had contact with their fellow student, said to be October 2nd.
They’ll be tested again on October 17th before being given a hopeful all-clear. In the interim, they will continue their studies via remote lessons
Chief Medical Officer Dr John Lee, speaking during a specially-organised press conference on Saturday, also explained the ‘weak positive' result from the test carried out on the affected student.
“Whenever we have a weak positive result, we do confirmatory tests," he said.
"Those confirmatory tests have in fact come back as negative in the same person, both in the same sample and on repeated samples. However, given the fact that this person has symptoms of respiratory infection, we feel that we need to report this result as positive.”
He also reported that he’s been meeting with the Health Services Authority (HSA) and the Public Health Department including laboratory staff to discuss the management of the case including the extensive contact tracing.
‘REALLY BIG OPERATION’
The entire health management team was reported by Dr Lee as rising to the challenge of “a really big operation to get together in a very short period of time.”
He said 207 people were swabbed both at the school and at the Needs Assessment Unit (NAU) where one of the parents of the affected student worked.
“At the same time Public Health and the HSA were also involved in receiving returning travellers at the airport coming in from Miami, so they were doing further swabs there," he added.
In all 346 tests results reported on Saturday with one positive result which was not from the batch associated with the school.
According to the CMO, since the affected student’s results showed a very low viral load it the child is unlikely to have been infectious.
“So that is a bit of good news, also coupled with the fact that every other person who has possibly been in contact with the child, their tests have come back as negative.”
He described this outcome as hugely reassuring.”
Meanwhile, Dr Lee is also advising that “if anyone becomes symptomatic particularly, if you're in isolation or if you’re in one of the households that’s in isolation and you get any symptoms at all that you're at all concerned about to contact the Flu Hotline which continues to operate 24 hours a day.
“In this period that we have heightened concern around COVID, I would ask that anybody who gets coughs and colds symptoms, because it’s impossible to distinguish them (from COVID), to isolate themselves until such time that they're been checked out by a doctor. Call the Flu Hotline and get advice in order that we can try and keep ourselves as safe as we can."
He went on to reassure that: "Although it has caused a large response, this particular case is not a threat to the community, which is why I haven’t recommended any change in the guidance.”
The additional positive case reported on Saturday takes the number of COVID infections in Cayman since March to 221.
There are 411 persons in isolation, 191 in government-managed facility and 220 at home.
In a separate case of a hospitalised COVID-infected person, the individual’s condition has deteriorated and they’ve had to be placed on a ventilator.
The CMO also reminded that although low, the risk for COVID in Cayman Islands is not zero. He is urging that people should continue to be vigilant and stated that frontline staff such as healthcare workers, care homes, airport and prison staff will continue to be tested.
Dr Lee has been awarded the OBE (Order of the British Empire) in this year’s COVID-delayed Queen’s Birthday Honours List for his outstanding contribution to health services in the Cayman Islands.
Meanwhile, Hon. Premier Alden McLaughlin said the results from the tests carried out in the wake of the infected student's case was “excellent news”.
Admitting that he had a sleepless night “worried about the implications of this incident had the result been the other way”, he called the outcome “a massive test on the system and the protocols we have in place” and said that “the entire system had performed admirably.”
"Judged by any standard anywhere this was an incredible performance and we all have the right to be very proud of Cayman’s ability to respond to this threat and to incidents such as this,” Mr McLaughlin added.
He however reminded that while the Cayman Islands has a robust system in place, there are still inherent risks in the system “and we all need to live or lives and to think about that.”
Commenting on what he called the "resounding and constant messages" he’s being bombarded with advising against another lockdown, given the social and economic disruptions it causes, Mr McLaughlin had this response:
”It is only by virtue of our continued collective vigilance as a community that we will be able to retain this status in the long term…We have to be able to manage the pandemic as we have done to have some semblance of normalcy in terms of or existence in these beloved islands.”
HE Governor Martyn Roper said the news was “really reassuring.”
Mr Roper said “it was a great test of our system on a wide scale and the system has performed extremely well. We’ve been in crisis mode since March because of COVID, and as a result, our crisis management systems have been tested and have become really good.”
Hon. Minister of Education, Juliana O’Connor Connolly who was also present at Saturday’s press conference, thanked the health and education professionals along with administrative staff Ministry and Department of Education for their response to the situation.
Allaying concerns of any impact on the education calendar for the students, she said her office is “assiduously working” to ensure the curriculum is not disrupted.
That is also expected to be minimised as there’s a scheduled term break starting this coming Thursday.
Hon. Minister of Health Dwayne Seymour again stressed his watchword of vigilance in the COVID-19 environment.
“I cannot reiterate this enough. Please continue to be vigilant, to practise good hygiene processes by washing your hands and wearing your masks where necessary," he urged.
"We still live in a COVID-19 world despite our good position here in Cayman. Please do not let our guard down and if you are feeling ill please take every precaution necessary and get tested.”
Following a huge turn out by the public for COVID-testing at HSA on Saturday, Mr Seymour reminded that testing will continue Monday morning from 7 am to 9.30 am.
The test is free with only a photo ID needed, including for children.
WEEKEND TESTING CONTINUED
There are no positive tests for COVID-19 disease in the 620 samples taken since yesterday.
Testing continued on Sunday with CMO Dr Lee reporting that 620 swabs have been tested since Saturday’s press conference.
All of those tests were negative.
According to a government statement, the majority of these results were in people who had come forward for testing as a result of concerns relating to the positive case of COVID-19 reported in the student of Red Bay Primary School, and 116 of these were in children aged between one and 18 years old.
Most people are said to have used the emergency drive through facility at the Cayman Islands Hospital of the Health Services Authority.
The drive through COVID-19 testing facility will be open at the Cayman Islands Hospital again on Monday between 7am. and 9.30am.
Persons should wear a mask and make sure that photo identification is taken for everyone who would like to be tested (including children).