By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
LOCAL officials are urging residents in Hope Town, Abaco, to keep their guard up amid a reported COVID-19 outbreak on the island that has prompted the closure of several businesses in recent days.
The Tribune understands that at least one of the positive cases is someone who has been fully vaccinated against the virus, but is said to be experiencing mild symptoms.
In a memo sent to residents yesterday, the community’s chief councillor, Jeremy Sweeting, announced that the Hope Town District Council’s office would be closed until August 3 due to a recent spike of infections on the island.
“The District Council can confirm that 53 persons presented themselves on Elbow Cay on 21 of July to be tested by medical personnel for COVID-19,” Mr Sweeting said in a statement.
“So far, it is understood that 15 persons from Elbow Cay have tested positive in the last 72 hours. The other persons’ results from yesterday are still pending.”
However, data provided by the Ministry of Health shows that only one positive case was confirmed on Abaco on Tuesday and two on Monday – pushing the island’s total to 388 as of July 20.
When contacted about the issue yesterday, Mr Sweeting explained some of the positive cases were diagnosed by way of rapid antigen tests.
RT-PCR tests are currently used as the gold standard to determine COVID-19 infection in The Bahamas.
“It’s very concerning.. .and there are others who are presenting themselves as well so the number will go up as far as people who are being tested,” he told The Tribune.
“Then we also have one person who tested positive from Guana Cay which is another island within my district and this individual was in Hope Town a few days ago or maybe a week ago and now, they have tested positive.
“Most of the persons who got tested, they got tested through a private facility, private doctor,” he added.
“Now the only thing I will point out in this is that the dashboard with the Ministry of Health may not reflect the same numbers because a lot of these tests were rapid antigen tests and, of course, the Ministry of Health uses the PCR testing to conduct testing so the numbers with Ministry of Health may not mirror what we did, but these numbers were confirmed by the Hope Town volunteer and rescue.”
He said local health officials are aware of the issue and have been working with private medical facilities.
Mr Sweeting also confirmed that one of the positive cases was fully vaccinated.
“One person in particular, I know for a fact that this lady was vaccinated,” he said. “But her symptoms were minimal compared to what it could’ve been. I mean the symptoms were mild and I think she is doing better than she was doing a couple days ago.”
It is not clear where the new cases originated from, but Mr Sweeting admitted Hope Town residents have become relaxed with the COVID-19 rules.
Sources told The Tribune there has also been a lack of enforcement of health protocols in the community, which has seen increased tourism activity in recent weeks.
He said: “I think being with the country opened back up and everything, I think that a lot of us have become relaxed because it’s basically COVID fatigue and everybody is guilty of that to a certain extent, myself included, but we have to try not to allow our guards down and keep our guard up and continue to carry out all of the protocols because this is no time to let our guards down.”
The increase in cases has raised deep concern among locals there who are worried about the lack of medical resources on the island.
“As you know, our medical facilities in Abaco are very limited and the facilities in Nassau are at capacity so it’s a very alarming issue and I think everyone has to take the necessary precautions and follow the protocols and when I say follow the protocols, I mean that in the strictest possible way,” Mr Sweeting continued.
“It’s definitely nothing to mess with and we have to put safety first.”