By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
CHIEF Medical Officer Dr Pearl McMillan said either self-isolation or state-arranged isolation measures could be used for people in The Bahamas who contract COVID-19 but are not ill.
Which method is used would be determined on a case-by-case basis, she said when contacted yesterday. People told to self-isolate would make their own arrangements for staying out of contact with other people as opposed to remaining somewhere established and monitored by the government.
Up to press time, there were no reported or suspected cases of COVID-19 locally, however the Associated Press reported yesterday that one of two Utah residents who have tested positive for the coronavirus travelled to The Bahamas recently and to Florida and Nevada. Jamaica also reported its first positive case yesterday.
“It depends on the individual,” Dr McMillan said, “how well informed they are and how likely they are to do the isolation we are requiring. Self-isolation would be considered if you have a really informed populace. Of course there are risks with that. To implement mandatory isolation, that has a little more benefit but both have merits.”
The question of which method to use would be especially important if there is an outbreak that strains resources, she said.
American media reported last week that the first coronavirus patient in New Hampshire defied instructions from public health officials to stay home and away from other people, prompting the state to issue “an official order of isolation to the first patient.”
Meanwhile, Health Minister Dr Duane Sands said yesterday that people who feel sick should stay home.
“We would prefer if people not well would stay home unless they are so seriously ill that they have no choice (but to seek medical attention),” he told reporters before a Cabinet meeting. “So if you are sick, if your children are sick but you don’t feel so ill, you’re not short of breath, then we would prefer you not spread whatever illness you have to the community.”
A 24-hour hotline for people with respiratory symptoms and fever is expected to be operational soon.
Asked about the Utah resident who travelled to this country, Dr Sands, citing a surveillance representative, said: “If she is a confirmed case with having symptoms during her stay here, there would be official notification from the USA (IHR/CDC) via an email with general information regarding the persons travel history, place of stay etc, so that investigations can commence.”
Jamaica’s first case of COVID-19 is a woman who had travelled to the United Kingdom.
As for this country’s readiness for dealing with COVID-19 cases, Dr Sands said: “We have designed and have started the process of building out an onsite, special unit for managing patients that could possibly have acute onset respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. That will be a six-bedded unit on PMH and we have also agreed a design for a unit at the defence force base, which will be a 20-bed unit inclusive of intensive care space and that process is moving as rapidly as possible. Bear in mind that in The Bahamas we have to deal with the reality of hurricanes so as we build we have to build in a resilient way.”
Dr Sands could not say how many ventilators are available in this country. He said there are now just under 400 coronavirus test kits available locally.
“Understand,” he said, “that there are offers for rapid testing which have not yet been validated and that has the potential to create all kinds of issues so I would caution people to avoid going on the Internet and purchasing unvalidated tests that are being sold.”