By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
HEALTH officials yesterday added seven deaths to the tally of overall COVID-19 deaths in the country, bringing the total to 163.
Six of the deaths, all of which involved Grand Bahama residents, had been under investigation.
The dead include five men ranging from age 42 to 83 and a 33-year-old woman.
Officials say the deaths of 21 people are currently under investigation to determine if COVID-19 was the cause.
The latest COVID-19 death is a 42-year-old Grand Bahama woman who died on November 1.
In addition, officials reported on Saturday another death - that of an 82-year-old woman from New Providence, who died on October 28.
As of last night, the country had 7,256 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 30 of which were confirmed yesterday. The newest cases include 18 men and 12 women.
A total of 25 people were reported hospitalised with COVID-19 yesterday, three of whom were in the intensive care unit.
Health Minister Renward Wells has revealed that investigations in Grand Bahama showed the majority of a spike in cases last week had originated from employee interactions in the workplace.
“Grand Bahama recorded 38 new confirmed cases in one day,” he said during a Ministry of Health press conference on Friday. “On further investigation, it was noted that 26 of these cases originated from employee interactions in the workplace.
“These employees work in the industrial sector as an electrical team . . . Positive cases have been removed from the workplace and are isolated. The surveillance continues to monitor the situation and analysis of the data over the weekend to further assess any notable trends.”
His comments come as the island continues to see an increase of cases, with its tally now standing at 897 .
On Friday, Dr Frank Bartlett, chairman of the GB COVID-19 task force, said preliminary data for Grand Bahama shows that COVID-19 cases are a “mixture” of clusters and community spread.
However, he noted that more data is still needed to exactly determine what type of transmission is happening on the island.
He said: “What we are on the process of doing now is trying to gather the data and the gaps that we have on those cases that we have not contacted. We are looking at our whole case profile from the beginning of our response to the COVID-19.
“We are looking to see if we could determine any kind of linkages. With the volumes in the numbers we had, it was much easier in the first wave because they were more manageable.
“We had more clear-cut linkages and we could clearly state if it was sporadic in nature but with the ones that we have now, with the lack of clear cut linkages, we cannot say. We know that they are sporadic in the sense that they cannot be localised to one specific area within the Grand Bahama region and it cannot be localised to one workplace.
“The fact that we don’t and we see a decrease in numbers suggests that there may not be community spread, but we still need more data.”
Grand Bahama had previously been under a lockdown for nearly five weeks after rising cases on that island.
While the island is no longer under a full lockdown, several restriction measures remain in place inclusive of a 9pm to 5am weekly curfew.
Asked Friday if health officials recommend tighter restrictive measures for Grand Bahama, Dr Bartlett replied: “The whole process now as it relates to Grand Bahama and when you look at the clusters that we have on the island, the other cases that we have, no explanation appears to be more sporadic and it relates to community spread.
“The areas that we have identified that there are an increased number of cases, we recommend targeted restrictions instead of having compete lockdowns because once we could identify those, hopefully we will be able to curtail the increase we are seeing with that as opposed to putting our community in much more not-so-nice conditions with the lockdowns.”
During Friday’s press conference, health officials also gave an update on the COVID-19 situation on several Family Islands.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Pearl McMillan said officials have observed that positive cases on Andros now extend from Nicholl’s Town in the north to Kemp’s Bay in the south.
She said officials are closely monitoring what’s happening on the ground there.
Meanwhile, in Bimini, Dr McMillan said over 15 suspected cases are linked to a social gathering that recently occurred on the island.
“Contact tracing efforts discovered there was a large church convention on the island last week Sunday,” she noted. “To date, over 15 suspected COVID cases are linked to that event. We are awaiting the results of their swab tests. Symptoms of one of these individuals were severe, enough to warrant being airlifted to New Providence for further medical management.”
As it relates to Eleuthera, the chief medical officer said the mitigation efforts recently implemented for the island are “showing promise of containment of the COVID-19 spread on that island.”
On Abaco, she said there has been an average of one case per day for the last 30 days – a trend she said officials continue to monitor.
“The national weekly average of new cases stands at 31. This is an over 70 point reduction based on just before the tightening restrictive measures on the ninth of October,” she said.