By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
COVID-19 related deaths have climbed by two to 254, with officials reporting that the country’s youngest victim is a five-month-old girl who died from the virus on June 26.
A 78-year-old New Providence woman who died on July 2 has also added to the nation’s COVID-19 death count.
With COVID-19 numbers and hospital related cases continuing to climb, former Health Minister Dr Duane Sands says it’s very likely the Delta variant could be present in the country and is “probably part of the reason” why local hospitalisations have increased.
Dr Sands spoke after the country recorded 100 new cases over the holiday weekend, pushing the nation’s overall tally to 13,165 as of Saturday.
According to the latest data released by the Ministry of Health, 51 new infections were confirmed on Saturday, 49 on Friday, 41 on Thursday, 59 on Wednesday, 23 on Tuesday, 53 on Monday and eight on Sunday, July 4, for a total of 284 last week. The week prior saw 295 cases.
Fifty-eight people are currently said to be in hospital sick with the virus, with four in the intensive unit.
Thirty deaths are currently under investigation.
Health officials would not comment on or provide more details on the infant’s death when contacted yesterday.
However, Dr Sands said the baby’s death shows that COVID-19 does not discriminate and can affect anyone.
This, he added, is why it’s important that Bahamians must not become relaxed about the current public health measures despite feeling COVID-19 fatigue.
He said: “If we take nothing away from her death, we should take away the fact that COVID does not discriminate. It does not discriminate on the basis of social economic status. It doesn’t discriminate against the colour of your skin or whatever island you live on and so we all need to be taking this thing seriously. Yes, we’re tired of COVID. Yes, we’re sick and tired of wearing masks or not being able to interact freely but we’re not out of the woods yet and no country is.”
Speaking generally about climbing case numbers and hospital cases, Dr Sands called the numbers disappointing and said it further shows that the country is nowhere out of the woods yet.
He added the COVID-19 situation remains a fluid one and again stressed that things can change, pointing to the emergence of new virus strains.
“It seemed like a few weeks ago that the numbers were coming down and now over the last probably week or so, the numbers seemed to be going back up again,” Dr Sands told The Tribune yesterday. “So, this is a little bit disappointing that we’re seeing these kinds of challenges with the COVID numbers as well as COVID deaths and hospitalisations and I think it speaks to the ever-changing dynamic of this virus with the emergence of these different variants.
“We now know that we have a Delta variant. We have a Lambda variant and who knows what else is going to pop up so there is so much that is unfolding as it relates to COVID-19.”
More than 90 countries have since detected the Delta strain, which is said to be quickly becoming the dominant strain in many nations.
Dr Sands said while there has been no confirmation that the strain is present in the Bahamas, it does not mean that the mutation is not already here.
In fact, Dr Sands said he believes the variant’s presence in the Bahamas is what’s partly contributing towards some of the nation’s problems, noting a worrisome uptick in hospital admissions among younger people.
Local health officials have already said the uptick in virus numbers has left Princess Margaret Hospital operating at full capacity.
Yesterday, Dr Sands said: “We know that the Delta variant is becoming the predominant variant in the United States. We know that it’s becoming the predominant variant in a number of countries and so even though we have no conclusive data that confirms the Delta variant is causing a problem in the Bahamas, I don’t think it’s a reckless or irresponsible speculation to suggest that the Delta variant is now in the Bahamas.
“I think as a matter of fact, it is probably part of the reason why we’ve seen an uptick in the number of cases presenting to the various emergency rooms and why we are seeing younger people with COVID-19 requiring hospitalisations. You have people in their 20s, 30s being hospitalised and I think we need to recognise that what is going on worldwide might be happening here in the Bahamas.”
Asked about his recommendations to get cases under control in the country, the former health minister said more people need to be vaccinated and added there needs to be a national effort to educate Bahamians about both the vaccine and public health measures.
“We can’t get tired,” Dr Sands said. “We just have to keep it up and we need to redouble our efforts and repeat what we’ve said over and over and when we get tired, repeat it again trying to use the creative community to help us with ads and so forth.”
The Bahamas administered 97,992 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to date.
According to health officials, 60,303 have received their first shot, while 37,689 people have been fully vaccinated.