By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
DESPITE a recent uptick of positive COVID-19 cases in New Providence, Chief Medical Officer Dr Pearl McMillan said data has shown that the island is experiencing a reduction of infected cases.
This also includes Grand Bahama, she added. Her comments came during a Ministry of Health press conference on Friday.
“The percentage of COVID-19 positive results on the two most impacted islands i.e. New Providence and Grand Bahamas are showing reductions over time,” she said.
According to Dr McMillan, gathering additional information on all the Family Island COVID cases and the COVID-19 deaths are chief among the challenges experienced by officials.
She said: “I will not say to you that we are fully beyond our data management challenges but I will say we are committed to continuing to work the contact tracing group and the others who are working on it to ensure that the public is updated as soon as we have the information sorted out.”
Friday’s data – which was not released until hours after the press conference - showed 37 additional cases. The cases were all recorded for New Providence, pushing the nation’s total to 2,057. Officials said the location of 77 cases are still pending.
On Thursday, The Bahamas recorded a total of 97 new cases, with 82 on New Providence, six on Grand Bahama and the local of nine cases still pending. Of Wednesday’s cases, there were 97 recorded on New Providence, 12 on Grand Bahama and one on Abaco.
Dr McMillan said while New Providence has seen a considerable increase of cases of late, officials are of the strong belief that the cases “are levelling”.
This, she said, are based on their examination of the specimen collection date.
“Certainly, the numbers over the last two days or so have seemed pretty high,” she said. “However, when we look at the specimen collection date, which is what we were using in order to give you the trend graphs,” she said.
“We have reason to believe that there is some levelling in the cases as well in New Providence as well as in Grand Bahama doing slightly better, so when you hear that yesterday, we had this precipitant increase or high increase.”
She added: “We are still, even though we have addressed the backlog testing, we’re still working through our data management side which means we are still getting some of that information. So, we are looking at the specimen collection date instead to form our trends and our trends suggest that we are in a position to begin the move forward.”
The increase of cases comes as the island prepares to resume commercial activity after a nearly four-week lockdown, which saw most businesses being ordered shut to contain the spread of the infectious disease.
Asked about the island’s readiness given the recent spike of cases, Dr McMillan maintained that while there is a risk associated with the re-opening, the country must aim to strike an economic and health balance.
“Certainly, there is risk associated with opening. (But), there is risk associated with not opening. We have to strike a balance. We have to look at all aspects, the social, the economic, the health. Should we, I guess, wait indefinitely to open the economy and there are inherent risks with that.
“With that being said, I think about two or so press conferences ago, we did say we wanted to be actually a little bit more informed with the data with respect to out epi-profile in the country and characterising it and I think we are there.”
“We are there. We continue to enhance our data management. We have moved to an electronic platform where all the information is added so that makes it easier for us to be able to monitor and be able to provide information on all the indicators.”
As of Friday, Dr McMillan said 107 health care workers have tested positive for COVID-19.
This comes amid concern in the medical community as officials say the surge of cases has placed a significant strain on healthcare workers.
Health Minister Renward Wells told reporters that officials are aware of the workers concerns and are working to rectify the issues.
“We are very concerned with the amount of stress being put on the personnel in health and the government is looking at it,” he said.
Mr Wells added that junior doctors will be hired by the government to help aid in the fight against COVID-19.
"In regards to the doctors, the Cabinet of the Bahamas has agreed to hire. It’s actually not 30," he told reporters when asked about the issue.
"It was 33, I think 32 persons in the programme and we were going to hire 29. I think three of the individuals still need to go through a rotation and pass the final parts of their exams so they can be recognised as senior house officers.”
Medical workers have also raised alarm about the lack of bed space for COVID-19 positive patients.
However, on Friday, Mr Wells said a total of 114 beds have added to the healthcare system for COVID-19 patients, adding that 30 more are expected to come “on stream” very soon.