COVID-19 putting an extra burden on Abaco


Tribune Staff Reporter


THE increasing number of COVID-19 cases on Abaco has placed a significant strain on healthcare workers on the island who are simultaneously managing the coronavirus fight and the public healthcare system in the wake of Hurricane Dorian's devastation.

North and Central Abaco administrator, Terrece Bootle-Laing said the COVID-19 pandemic has been an "added burden" on local medical workers.

"They've worked exhaustively from Hurricane Dorian and this is an added burden placed on them to conduct contact tracing, to request that people go into quarantine and to isolate those persons with positive results," she told The Tribune yesterday.

In addition to helping to reduce further COVID-19 spread on the island, the island administrator said workers are also responsible for senior management of the healthcare system on Abaco.

"The personnel, those who are responsible for managing this and contact tracing, they are the senior persons and they are the persons that are responsible for senior management of healthcare (on the island) so they have an added burden.

"It's placed an extra strain on them because pretty much from early morning to late evening, they have to go home with persons names to contact, to call and to alert those persons that they may have been exposed to COVID and to take necessary precautions and so they've been working overwhelmingly very hard."

Her comments come as healthcare workers across the country continue to struggle with exhaustion from the increasing amount of COVID cases.

As of Saturday, the total number of COVID-19 cases in the country stood at 2,506, with 1,464 of those active. New Providence has the country's highest number of cases at 1,590 and is followed by Grand Bahama at 584, according to data provided as of Saturday.

Abaco comes in the third, with cases there totalling 85. The island also recorded its first COVID death on August 21.

"That was connected to comorbidities," Mrs Bootle-Laing said of the death. "And so we know that there are concerns in Abaco because there are a number of persons in Abaco with issues like hypertension, diabetes and so we realise that those comorbidities are prevalent throughout Abaco and that's why we're pressing on people to be careful."

From the onset of the pandemic, Abaco residents were concerned about COVID-19 reaching their communities and eventually spreading throughout the island.

Yesterday, Mrs Bootle-Laing said the situation has now become a reality, increasing the level of concern on the island.

"Numbers for Abaco are very concerning and those of us in leadership, we're paying keen attention working along with the Department of Public Health to sensitise and to inform and to share the message that as Abaconions, we need to be very careful," she said.

"We need to do what it takes to keep our community safe but we're not pleased with the numbers (here)."

She added: "There was a concern that it would spread rampantly and widely throughout Abaco and that is now the case and so we just want to press hard in doing our best to see the numbers flatten. And we're very concerned we don't want to see that number continue to rise."

Asked about the amount of people currently in quarantine on the island, Mrs Bootle-Laing told The Tribune she did not have those numbers readily available, only saying the numbers there "are relatively high."

She also said that on average, one positive COVID-19 patient on the island has as many to 20 or 30 contacts.

"I don't have the quarantine numbers on hand but I know in speaking with the Department of Public Health personnel, those numbers were relatively high the last check in," she noted.

"And so they are doing contact tracing because on average, one person has at least 20 to 30 contacts and that is one of the things that they've been realising - how exhaustive it is to really contact persons who may have had direct contact with a person whose affected and so, it's an overwhelming task and that's why we've been pressing to people to take the necessary precaution."

With no designated quarantine facility identified on the island, Mrs Bootle-Laing said positive patients displaying symptoms have the option to self-isolate in New Providence.

The decision, she said, was made due to the lack of suitable housing options on the island due to Dorian.

"We were aware going into this that we have limited space and facilities available to mandate a government quarantine facility," she said.

"We have a number of trailers available but they are limited in numbers and so, if persons are quarantined or we request that they self-quarantine and of those persons who has to be isolated because for the most part they're symptomatic, the health practitioners have opted to fly them into the government facility in Nassau."

She added that while most people are adhering to the quarantine protocols, there are some who have not been following the recommendations of health officials.

"A number of persons have been adhering to the quarantine rules… (but) there are persons who have not listened," she continued.

"There are persons who law enforcement have had to track down. There are persons who've gone off the grid and refused to answer their calls. They've relocated and they should be in quarantine and so all of those concerns have been brought to us and we've been seeking as best as we can as a team to oversee the situation and do our best."


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