By Staff Writer
Cayman this week continued to experience a surge in COVID-19 cases as the sudden, rapid and persistent upswing shows no signs of abating.
By midweek the highest-ever single daily number of cases were recorded passing over 100 in one day alone.
Worryingly, the outbreak has now spread to the Sister Islands with cases now being reported in Cayman Brac.
Equally concerning is the increasing number of hospitalisations with four people earlier this week requiring medical attention.
It was confirmed that two persons suffering from the disease required supplemental oxygen.
In Wednesday’s daily update which came several hours later than normal, Chief Medical Officer Dr John Lee, reported that there were 126 positive tests comprising three positive travellers and 123 positive tests from the community, the first time over a hundred positive cases were reported in a single day.
Addressing concerns about the rising number of cases, the CMO said: “You’ll all be aware that the number of positives is rising quite sharply now and not only in Grand Cayman but in the Sister Islands as well. It's a concern for all of us and my thoughts are with everyone who is positive or who may have loved ones that are positive and are naturally worried about the outcome.”
He reassured the community, saying, “I think the good news is the large majority of us will sail through this. We may have some minor symptoms, some nasal stuffiness, some sore throat, some cough and a fever. But taking some paracetamol and simple measures such as this should see us through the event, especially if we're vaccinated.”
According to Dr Lee most people will suffer with only minor symptoms from COVID-19 which he said was a “benefit of having high vaccination numbers, because those people who are vaccinated are really protected against serious illness and any other poor outcomes.”
Dr. Lee also advised people to be prepared in the event that they are required to go into isolation, as if preparing for “any disaster that's approaching such as a hurricane.”
The Chief Medical Officer also addressed public concerns about the time frame of receiving test results saying the high number of cases was making it increasingly difficult.
“I know that some people are somewhat disgruntled that they have not received tests as quickly as they would like. Public Health did aim to phone everybody that's positive within 24 hours, however with the growing number of cases it's becoming increasingly difficult.”
Because of this added pressure on the system, he said the reporting process is being changed.
“A new process is going to be instituted whereby people who are positive will be sent an email just like those who are negative and along with that email will be instructions that anybody who is a new positive needs to isolate and continue to isolate. Those who are vaccinated for 10 days and those who are unvaccinated for 14 days.”
All households are reminded that they must continue to isolate at home, whether test results have been received or not, until they are advised they can leave by a Public Health official.
MIN. OF HEALTH REASSURES PUBLIC
Meanwhile, Hon. Minister of Health and Wellness, Sabrina Turner, has addressed the concerns about the continuing increase in the rising number of cases.
“I am sure that the rising number of cases comes as rather a shock to our systems after spending over 18 months in our ‘COVID bubble’. But now we must join the rest of the world in managing community spread among our population. It was inevitable that it would happen, and we are prepared,” she said.
The Health Minister acknowledged that a continued rise in cases is likely given increased testing, as well as “the highly contagious nature of this virus, and in particular of the dominant delta variant”.
She urged residents to remain calm, as she said, “The Cayman Islands – all three of them – are in a very good position to manage COVID-19 and emerge on the other side.”
In her statement, Min. Turner cited a highly vaccinated population, a well prepared and resourced healthcare system and an educated population well-versed in taking personal protective measures as key factors enabling the Cayman Islands to manage and live with COVID-19.
“And we can take heart from and be optimistic about the fact that the vast majority of our cases are mild to moderate, with very few cases thus far requiring either hospitalization or oxygen support – and with most cases continuing to be asymptomatic.”
She noted that the Public Health Department is “tracking this data in order to be able
Addressing the concerns about the timeliness of test results, she said outlined improvements in communicating test results directly to individuals.
“Public Health will be notifying both positives and negatives via email going forward rather than negatives by email and positives by phone, in order to make notification more immediate for those who are positive.”
She advised the public to be patient as results can take up to 72 hours (three days) to process.
With positive cases now being found in Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, Min. Turner noted that the government is “extending the same support to our people on Cayman Brac and Little Cayman that we are on Grand Cayman.”
“Everyone affected by COVID-19 in the Cayman Islands will have access to support in getting groceries and other supplies, as well as with getting their results in a timely fashion, and being able to apply for the ex-gratia stipend if eligible,” she added.”
Lateral flow tests would be distributed to schools in Cayman Brac as well as on Grand Cayman, and national guidelines on COVID-19 testing for children and students would be released this week.
GOVERNOR URGES PUBLIC TO REMAIN CALM
HE Governor Martyn Roper also issued a statement on the high number of cases now being uncovered.
“I recognise this is a shock after we have lived comfortably and Covid free in our safe bubble for over a year. This is however what happens with infectious diseases – they spread rapidly and Covid is going to continue to spread.”
Mr Roper however pointed out that “while we have lots of cases, hospitalisations are very few and those in hospital are doing well.”
He urged the public to remain calm and to follow safety protocols.
“We should remain calm. We each have an individual responsibility to protect ourselves and our community. I encourage everyone to follow closely the health guidance. Wear a mask indoors, keep washing your hands and maintain a social distance. Those who aren’t vaccinated should make it a priority. The vaccine will protect you and the most vulnerable from serious illness or dying.”
With the borders set to reopen next month, Governor Roper sought to allay fears that it could equate to a corresponding increase incoming cases, citing the Turks and Caicos where the spread has mainly been amongst residents.
“There are concerns that allowing tourists to return in November may increase our Covid numbers even more. However, as I mentioned in my statement last week, in Turks and Caicos, which has stayed open to tourists, the majority of Covid cases are not from tourists, but from the local population travelling overseas and then circulating in the community. Removing quarantine for vaccinated travellers on 20 November is unlikely to increase our exposure to Covid dramatically.”
The Governor repeated his call for people to get vaccinated including getting booster shots and getting tested.
“Booster shots are also very important to protect our community. Please come forward when you are eligible. Lateral flow tests will help us to identify positive cases, isolate them and enable everyone else to carry on with their lives as we live with Covid in this new normal. We are a resilient community. All of us have a part to play to keep ourselves and everyone else safe,” he stated.
As the Cayman Islands Government (CIG) proceeds with plans for a full reopening of the borders on November 20th, announced last Friday, there was no indication of deviating from that plan or whether further measures were being considered to mitigate any impact on the new reopening schedule from the continuing spiral in positive COVID-19 cases.
The November 20th reopening date was postponed from the previous planned October 14th due to the outbreak in cases which was at an early stage then and not as widespread - and growing - as it is now.
When he announced the new reopening date, Hon. Premier Wayne Panton had stated, “We must not allow situations to develop to overwhelm the health system and likewise we must not allow situations to develop to overwhelm the education system.”
The majority of cases in the early part of the outbreak were in schools and especially among school children forcing several schools to close and the students and their parents and contacts required to isolate.
Concerns that people gathering in close surroundings might also be a factor in the ongoing surge in cases is raising questions over whether some form of targeted restrictions might be necessary to curb further community spread.
Extensive contact tracing is being carried out, and critically, lateral flow personal testing kits have now been introduced to test for the presence of the virus along with the PCR tests administered by medical professionals.
Long lines were observed this week as people rushed to get lateral flow and PCR tests as well as COVID-19 vaccinations.
Heightened emphasis continues to be placed on vaccinations with the 80 per cent target now being reinforced as a basis for the reopening of the borders. The vaccination rate currently stands at around 79 per cent.
Cayman continues to have the highest vaccination rate in the Caribbean/Latin America area and one of the leading rates globally.
However, the ongoing upswing in cases has placed Cayman among the worst daily infection rates in the region recently especially among countries within a similar approximate population range.
A single day comparative snapshot across some selected islands this past week showed the following:
Bermuda - 126 active cases, 5265 total, 98 deaths, 19 new cases
Turks and Caicos Islands - 46 active cases, 2966 total, 23 deaths, 5 new cases
Bahamas - 1168 active cases, 642 deaths, 22,259 cases total, 32 new
Antigua - 391 active cases, 99 deaths, 4,031 total, 12 new
Barbados - 445 new cases, 16,033 in total, 143 deaths since the pandemic started.
27 Jan, 2020
15 Sep, 2021
15 Sep, 2021
15 Sep, 2021