• All hospital visits are now cancelled
• Officials want to extend curfew
• 15 medical staff are confirmed cases
• Sandilands move exposed spread risk
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Bahamas reported two more COVID-19 deaths yesterday as health officials revealed they have recommended to Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis that his drastic curfews extend into May and there be no further relaxation of the lockdown measures.
Health Minister Dr Duane Sands also revealed that more than 200 healthcare workers are in quarantine after exposure to a patient on Princess Margaret Hospital’s medical surgical ward over the weekend, though he expects that number to dramatically decrease after officials perform risk assessments.
He said 15 healthcare workers have been confirmed COVID-19 cases to date and in the next few days, officials expect to complete testing of all exposed healthcare workers. Among the healthcare workers in quarantine are 96 doctors and 62 nurses, he said.
COVID-19 had a mortality rate of about 15 percent in the country up to press time, with 11 confirmed deaths and 72 confirmed cases.
Two New Providence men ages 53 and 51 are the latest COVID-19 deaths. They had no history of travel.
The two new confirmed cases include New Providence women, ages 53 and 29, who are in home isolation.
Fourteen people have recovered from the virus to date. Among the recovered is a resident of Cat Cay. Health officials said contact tracing for that resident is complete and all residents on the cay have tested negative for the virus. Bimini, which now has three confirmed cases, is expected to be a site of expanded testing, with some 40 or 50 people on that island to be tested by today, according to the health minister.
Dr Merceline Dahl-Regis, consultant to the Office of the Prime Minister, said they hope to say when the COVID-19 epidemic will peak in the country this week.
“We’re following it very closely but I’m not able to say because each week based on the findings we have to look at the various models and see what fits the data, the data which comes in from the cases, it’s not only the number of cases, it’s the data, the onset of illnesses, when symptoms begin, the time of the lab testing, there are many variables that are considered with the models,” she said. “Given the situation that we were in a week ago, and where we are now, then in a week’s time we would have a better idea.”
In view of the number of healthcare workers taken out of the system because of their exposure to a COVID-19 case, Dr Sands was asked if it is time to invite help from healthcare workers like those from Cuba.
“I don’t believe that this is an issue of not being able to handle it,” he said.
“The index patient had symptoms that were inconsistent with the typical, usual or even extended definition of COVID-19,” he said. “The healthcare teams, many of them experienced, competent clinicians did not make the call. The patient subsequently spiked a temperature and at that point was tested. We are doing an external review to look at the management of this patient and all of the patients from the time that the patient arrived at the hospital up to present. When that investigation is done, we’re happy to share those results to the public.”
Dr Sands also said the South Beach Clinic will be further re-fitted to accommodate an additional ten beds for a total of 20.
This should bring the total number of beds for COVID-19 patients in New Providence to 40, he said, adding that by today six beds will be available in Grand Bahama and within a week or so there will be 22 beds on that island.
Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Delon Brennen said ensuring young people are immunised during this crisis has been a challenge officials are trying to address. He conceded some children are behind on immunisations because of parents’ fear of going into the community or because of inability to access healthcare sites.
He said: “It is a challenge being able to get our young children, especially infants to get their immunisation so there is some delay that is currently happening, some just out of fear, some out of closure of offices and so what we are currently doing is putting together a strategy to make sure we are redesigning parts of our immunisation programme to make it more community accessible and even thinking about doing delivering immunisation in people’s home as opposed to waiting for them to come to us.”
During the press conference, Dr Dahl-Regis revealed clusters for cases. While most confirmed cases had a chain of cases that included no more than one person, one case had a chain that involved 19 people, including two who have since died.