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‘Better Late Than Never’: Residents Say Action Needed Earlier To Help Stop Bimini Outbreak

Residents at the Bimini administrator’s office for food vouchers after the Prime Minister’s lockdown announcement.

Residents at the Bimini administrator’s office for food vouchers after the Prime Minister’s lockdown announcement.

By RASHAD ROLLE

Tribune Senior Reporter

rrolle@tribunemedia.net

PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced a two-week lockdown of Bimini yesterday after two new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed on the island, bringing the total there to 13 and the country’s total to 96.

Though they concede drastic action may be needed to prevent further spread of COVID-19 on their island, some Bimini residents are concerned officials waited too long to comprehensively address their outbreak and fear provisions for the lockdown may be inadequate. They are also calling for widespread testing.

After Dr Minnis’ announcement yesterday, more than 200 people flocked to the Administrator’s Office on the island to get $100 food vouchers, highlighting the scale of needs in the community.

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Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis.

Dr Minnis said the lockdown is necessary and that it will begin at 9pm on Monday and end on May 30 at midnight. The Royal Bahamas Police Force, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and a clinic for emergency services will be allowed to operate during the lockdown. The island administrator will be permitted to distribute food or water, healthcare workers will be allowed to conduct home visits to provide medical or therapeutic care and a public healthcare worker may attend the clinic to treat patients in need of urgent medical care.

From April 29 to May 2 the surveillance team of the Ministry of Health visited Bimini to provide educational support for medical personnel, assist in finding contacts of confirmed cases, assess a quarantine facility, help enforce infection prevention, conduct testing and host a virtual town hall meeting, according to Dr Minnis. He said 102 people on Bimini have been swabbed for COVID-19 to date.

Kim Johnson-Rolle, a Bimini resident who visited Florida weeks before her death, was the first person in the country known to die from COVID-19. Almost all of the confirmed cases on the island are people who attended the same church she did, Gateways Ministries, which hosted a crowded funeral not long before she died.

After her death, her contacts, many close family members, were told to quarantine. However, it would be weeks before most of them were tested for the virus.

Brenda Edgecombe, Mrs Johnson-Rolle’s sister, tested positive for COVID-19 four weeks after her sister’s death and two weeks after her own initial quarantine period ended, despite showing no symptoms of the virus. Tomorrow will be 21 days since she has been in isolation for the second time.

Her experience has her questioning the logic of the two week lockdown announced yesterday. “I’m not sure what this will accomplish,” Ms Edgecombe said. “Where are we going after two weeks when you come out again? I think a better idea would be for them to just do more testing because it seems there are just a lot of asymptomatic people out there and they will still be around after two weeks.”

Anita Harris supports a two-week lockdown but said after Mrs Johnson-Rolle’s death, a group of residents wrote letters to government officials calling for greater testing and enforcement of quarantine measures on Bimini. Their pleas went unheeded, she said.

“This is a bit late. When they had the death on the 30th of March, they waited until weeks later to do testing. I strongly believe that had they acted when Kim died and sent people here to conduct comprehensive testing, this spread would not have been where it is now. Even people who were exposed, some were allowed to be in self-isolation at their home and I myself have seen them on the street.

“I went to the ATM machine to get some money and I saw a girl who is supposed to be in quarantine because her whole family tested positive for the virus, and she was in line with me at the ATM. I want to send a message to the government to get serious about Bimini because they are now trying to put a bandaid on the problem but they are too late,” Ms Harris said.

Yesterday, Dr Minnis said the central government is coordinating with Bimini officials to distribute food and water on the island.

“The National Food Committee and Department of Social Services are making arrangements to ensure that the food needs will be met before and during the lockdown,” he said. “I assure the residents of Bimini that there will be sufficient food and medicine for everyone on that island. Additional support, security and enforcement of the lockdown will be provided by the Royal Bahamas Police Force. Various measures are being taken to ensure the safety of various essential workers on the island, including the use of PPEs.”

A two-week lockdown, however, will be more than twice the length of any lockdown experienced anywhere in the country to date. In April, there was a five-day national lockdown and subsequent lockdowns each weekend.

Partrisa Saunders said the unprecedented nature of the lockdown makes it difficult to feel confident that people will have all the supplies they need by Monday. After Dr Minnis’ announcement, she said her street exploded with unusual traffic, the sounds of people getting ready for the lockdown. She said many of the people were headed to the Administrator’s Office to get food vouchers.

“Some persons cannot afford this two-week lockdown because they haven’t worked in about eight weeks,” she said. “A lot of people don’t have food and the government at the Administrator’s Office, I think are giving out $100 vouchers and that is not sufficient money because the cost of living is too high.

“We’ve never been in this position before so I can’t say we can take confidence in (what the prime minister said). What is the amount the government is going to give? Will it meet the needs of everyone, are they going to provide each home with food, or just a selected few? Is it going to be enough supplies for two weeks because two weeks is a long time. You have single mothers here with no help and no jobs. How will they know what each home needs what or how many people are in a home at a particular time?”

Bimini Administrator Cleola Pinder said there is no need for people to panic.

“Nobody needs to feel alone. Everyone will have some food in their homes,” she said. “People have grown accustomed to having three meals a day, now we have to cut back and just ration.”

Mrs Pinder said so many people showed up for vouchers yesterday that she grew concerned, saying: “I said we’re not practising social distancing.”

When she spoke to The Tribune shortly before 4.30pm, she said about 100 people had been given vouchers and another 100 were left to go. Stores on the island have about two to three weeks of supplies, she said, though the mail boat, which brings fresh produce and other key items, has been delayed because of bad weather.

“One challenge we’re having is since the economy has been impacted by the pandemic a number of families are living together,” she said. “You may have up to 13, 15 people in one home. Children have moved back home, bringing their children. We’re trying to help them out as best as we can.”

Comments

Porcupine 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Do we fear fear, or the inability to be fed? A reasonable question, isn't it? Are our elected officials up to the challenge? Morally, intellectually? Just asking. Also, if we can't do the math, why would we understand the importance of social distancing? It's just another rule to be gotten around. Standing in line with someone at the ATM that you know is supposed to be in quarantine? Hold my tongue? Doesn't matter what is said, our fate is in another's hands. And, it ain't God this time.

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ThisIsOurs 2 months, 3 weeks ago

"Do we fear fear, or the inability to be fed?"

It's probably only possible to ask that question if you've never been to your last dollar. People with resources fear fear, people without fear the lack of food clothing and shelter..

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avidreader 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Just a few questions related to this situation: What is the situation on Cat Cay not far south of Bimini? Are there people on Bimini who work on Cat Cay? Are the rich and famous who own and patronize Cat Cat allowed to enter and depart the island by sea and by air as freely as in the past? These are just a few simple questions and inquiring minds want to know.

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ohdrap4 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Nobody needs to feel alone. Everyone will have some food in their homes,” she said. “People have grown accustomed to having three meals a day, now we have to cut back and just ration.”

When out of bread, eat brioche.

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Dawes 2 months, 3 weeks ago

They need to do mass testing. This is a lazy way out which doesn't even solve the problem. Those showing today were infected 10-14 days ago. All along this government has not done major testing. Bimini is an ideal place to do this as the population is small. The first case was there in March, as such many others outside the 13 have probably already had it. but without testing they will never know. Seems we will shut down whole islands without knowing if most people have already had it. If we don't have enough maybe they should invite more forefingers to come over if they bring testing equipment.

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jackbnimble 2 months, 3 weeks ago

I have never seen anything so confusing. The first covid case shows up around March 20 and the whole country is put on lockdown. So how is it you have a whole person die from covid and it takes you almost 2 months to lock a small tightly knit island down? I don’t get the rationale. I agree with the resident who said the people who have it will still have it in two weeks. It obviously took a month for the first case after the lady’s death to show up so what is a two week lockdown stopping? I agree that they need to keep testing unless they running out of test kits and don’t want to admit it.

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ThisIsOurs 2 months, 3 weeks ago

They'll lock them down for another 2 weeks. Sigh.. I've come to the conclusion that there is literally nothing else they can do. They don't have the test kits. We're in a corner back against the wall with lockdowns and herd immunity. God help us in winter

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licks2 2 months, 2 weeks ago

The rational is the people were placed on lockdown like the rest of us to prevent spread. . .they refused to comply with the lockdown measure for the most part. . .according to people on Bimini itself!! Ergo, the hot spot. . .which takes incubation and expressed and continued increases of cases. Bimini's last 3 cases were in May. . .hence the need for more severe measures in May for containment. That island is the only surge/hot spot. . .soo lock down is used to contain the spread. Is it clear enough now??

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TalRussell 2 months, 3 weeks ago

What the government isn't talking is a reason for deep concern. The government has never bothered to reveal how many labs are there up and running - and presuming each lab has the current qualified staffing ability to process 170 tests each and every day. of the week - provides a clear picture of how many tests can be done over a seven day period? Nod once for yeah, Twice for no?

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ISpeakFacts 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Buncha fatties in that pic LMAO.... put down the fork!!!

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Jim 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Cat Cay is locked down and has been for weeks, not a government decision, their own. Cannot compare a billionaire /millionaire's lockdown to the government imposed, not thought out lockdown on Bimini.

Government building at 10am was crowded with non-social distancing folks trying to get vouchers, but the crowd at 10am is nothing like the growing crowd at 2pm (Friday prior to lockdown weekend).

The people having to ignore social distancing as the line would wind around the roads on the island. People are at the government arranged last minute idea, to collect a hundred dollar voucher to feed a family of 8 over a duration of two plus weeks; $5 for a loaf of bread, can buy 20 loaves of bread for the children to eat for 2 weeks, while the rest of the family "cuts back and ration(s)" their food per the quoted words of the government offical.

And South Bimini is being ignored. Word of mouth alerts those on South to a limited number of vouchers being available. Residents of South Bimini are paying $4 out of money they don't have to take the water taxi roundtrip to North to get a voucher if there are any left.

Hope the people that wanted the lockdown are pleased with themselves. To those who spoke up against the lockdown and were over ridden, hope is that the government sees the ignoramus decsion they made and have the integrity to cancel the lockdown and truely help the people they placed in this economically devastating situation. This is not controlling the virus, it has evolved to controlling the people.

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licks2 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Are you familiar with Bimini? The cases found were in north Bimini. That island is isolated from north Bimini. . .coupled with airport closure, they are like east is to west because the water way between them ACTS AS A GEOGRAPHICAL BUFFER FOR CONTAIMENT. THE HOT SPOT IS CENTERED IN THE NORTH. Further more, south Bimini is mostly upscale. . .persons who might not even be there during this lock down! Also, the homes there are so far apart it too may present a buffer.

If one is familiar with north Bimini they would know the locals say that Bimini never sleeps. . .we NP "driftwood" carn never keep up with their "always on the go" life styles! I asked one of them how they keep up the non-stop moving and drinking. He told me, "keep going till you drop. . .sleep it off. . .then get up and do it again"!! I lasted two days. . .dropped. . .slept it off. . .then haul a wild tail back to NP!! They live on an island but have a city mentality!! When they call for a lock down. . .Nassau, you got a problem!!

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TalRussell 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Strong talk out Treasure Cay has it that another glitch has landed on the colony's aviation minister Dionisio James's list crazy stuff things for 'em needin' explain - after another plane landed at the Treasure Cay Airport just within the last 72 hours, where five passengers departed a private plane to journey on to Green Turtle Cay, Abaco. Nod once for yeah, Twice for no?

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avidreader 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Jim, thanks for the information about Cat Cay and the expected chaos on Bimini. I was hoping that someone would be able to supply some real and reliable details. Replying to TalRussell; this business of private planes landing in Treasure Cay and Marsh Harbour is, apparently, an ongoing exercise as can be seen on FlightRadar24 on line. When we mere locals will be able to return to Marsh Harbour to check our property is the unanswered question.

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The_Oracle 2 months, 3 weeks ago

So we have more apparent incompetence in Government (no surprise) which didn't leave with Dr. Sands. (again, no surprise) We also have openly disingenuous behavior from them regarding inter island transport. More swabs delivered directly to Abaco? Who is gonna resign on that one? If you're going to lockdown a small island population for two weeks, you set up food and water shipments and proper distribution before hand. Some truly need, some don't, but if it's free you know we are all gonna line up! I know the Bahamas Resources are scarce, but what we do have isn't being used effectively. These no notice announcements of lockdowns are as bad as the teachers and their Pop Quizzes. Sadistic.

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SheepRiseUp 2 months, 3 weeks ago

'Quarantine' is when you restrict the movement of sick people. 'Tyranny' is when you restrict the movement of healthy people. Q

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SheepRiseUp 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Q sent me. #WWG1WGA

'Quarantine' is when you restrict the movement of sick people. 'Tyranny' is when you restrict the movement of healthy people. Q

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