PAHO – 3 Caribbean Countries Amongst Reported Positive COVID-19 Cases

While the global tallies keep changing, the World Health Organization through its Pan American Health Organ announced on Sunday that at least 3 Caribbean countries have reported some 6 cases, in total, of the dreaded novel coronavirus (or COVID-19 as it’s been renamed). “In the region of the Americas… 3 cases in the Dominican Republic, 2 cases in St. Martin and 1 case in St. Bart’s,” PAHO’s Dr. Carissa F. Etienne reported. She is the public health expert in charge of the Washington D.C. based PAHO and was at the time of this announcement sharing some of the viruses’ “epidemiological background information” via ZOOM at a meeting convened by CARICOM Chair Prime Minister Mia Mottley.

Pan American Health Organization figures, as of March 1, also show that novel coronavirus cases in the region of the Americas have been reported in America and Canada with other patients testing positive in Brazil, Mexico, and Ecuador.

Dr. Etienne noted, “as of Friday WHO has upgraded the risk levels for all countries as very high. WHO has fallen short of naming this outbreak a pandemic but it is expected that very soon there will be a naming of the pandemic.” The Dominican doctor, known in public health circles as an “advocate for universal health care,” pointed to the “high likelihood that we would see cases in the sub-region” as “it is already here – we have cases in St. Martin,” she said of the two cases said to be in isolation in the French quarter hospital. Although particular support mechanisms were not named Etienne also expressed that the “WHO does have great concerns for the situations in some countries, particularly those countries with weak health systems.”

A response from the Dutch government of Sint Marteen detailed, in part, “Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs on Sunday morning activated the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in connection with two confirmed cases of the coronavirus COVID-19 on French Saint Martin…. There is no reason to panic; stay calm and take preventative hygiene measures at home, on the job, in school that have been promoted by the Ministry of Public Health for the past several weeks…. The Dutch side has been working closely with French-side counterparts as well as other staff members and will continue to work together in the coming days, weeks and months ahead.

Meanwhile, State and City authorities in New York have mobilized combined forces as the first positive COVID -19 case was reported there last weekend. Governor Andrew Cuomo along with Mayor Bill de Blasio and other health officials encouraged New Yorkers to go about their daily routine, as there was no cause for widespread concern. Governor Cuomo told media audiences, “the whole challenge is about containment of the number of people who become exposed and who become infected. Our challenge now is to test as many people as we can. You’re not going to eliminate the spread but we have to limit the spread.” To this end, easy access to health care providers for testing and subsequent treatment was presented as a key element in New York’s response to the virus, even as officials there recognized that at least “80% percent” of persons who do become infected tend to “self resolve.” Treatment Cuomo explained, may also include isolation “so they don’t infect additional people,” thereby triggering community spread.

“There’s a difference between isolation and quarantine,” Vincentian Health Ministry official Dr. Roger Duncan pointed told ANN on Tuesday. “Isolation is for sick people and it’s done mainly for two reasons: to allow such persons access to care and to restrict the spread of disease to others, while quarantine is for healthy persons. They are not sick but they might have been exposed to the infection. So we ask that they remove themselves from circulation.” This is done especially so that health care providers could monitor such individuals in a controlled setting. Dr. Duncan also noted that patients may be quarantined at any place be it a boat, at home or a health care facility. Isolation, though, requires certain restrictions. One of which prohibited him from naming the locations of such installations here. He, however, told ANN that there were some 25 – 30 beds that are readily available with “surge capacity contingencies” should the need arise to treat severely ill patients.

Studies have since shown, the PAHO Director also said, that some demographics are more susceptible than others. “It seems that some 80% of the infections were mild, 14% of the infections were considered to be severe and 5% very severe requiring ICU and ventilation…. In the age group less than 19 years, we’ve seen that the disease is very mild and infrequent. Only about 2.4% of children under 19 were reflected in the number of cases…. The age group most affected is the age group over 80 years…. For the case fatality rate, it depends on the intensity and capacity to manage but the case fatality rate in Wuhan Province was 5.8% and in the rest of China 0.7%. For a majority of the cases, we’ve noted that it has been worse for persons with underlying conditions [such as] cardiovascular, diabetes, hypertension, chronic diseases.” Generally, there were more males infected than females.
The duration of illness for mild cases is said to generally be about two weeks and for severe illness from 3 to six weeks some of who may require intensive care and ventilation for up to 40 days.

In her remarks, Mia Mottley, Barbadian Prime Minister and Chairperson of the Caribbean Community of countries warned against inciting panic across member territories. She highlighted, negative widespread anxiety – caused most often by “fake news” – would bode “a greater deleterious impact,” for the “economic stability of our region and our countries.”

Prime Minister Mottley urged Caribbean citizens to seek out “credible, established sources” of information regarding COVID-19 updates while pointing out, “you would not catch this by going into a building that somebody went into. You would not catch COVID-19 by standing 10 feet or 15 fifteen away from somebody… we’ve also said to be able to manage your environment properly. In some countries mosquitos, borne diseases pose a greater likelihood of problems for our people than COVID-19. So we need to contextualize this and we need to recognize that the one thing we cannot do is start to attack nationalities, or countries and to get a level of xenophobia and to close off borders and to create barriers that will in fact lead to loss of jobs, loss of economic activity, greater social implosion, greater opportunities for crime and all of the other things which are equally public health disorders.”

The Caribbean Media Corporation has since reported, “the St. Lucia government says it will prosecute persons who spread false information about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), as the island moves to adopt measures to prevent any occurrence of the virus that has killed nearly 3,000 people globally.”

In the meantime, two Vincentian students studying at a University of the West Indies Suzhou Province based campus are, “still not clear when we would be able to begin our internship because the companies we were supposed to work at have not opened.” This comes even though, “in Suzhou the Public Health Emergency Level has been lowered from level 3 to Level 2.” No doubt a reflection of the lack of new infections and fatalities for the previous ten days. The young ladies form part of a contingent of Caribbean students (including Barbados and Jamaica) currently engaged in Software Engineering studies. They quarantined themselves at the local dorm and have been living off of UWI supplied resources. Now that improvements in the general situation seem imminent they are in good spirits but “still taking precautions to stay safe [such as] practicing good hygiene.” And because “a lot of our online deliveries are coming in now” there is little to no need to circulate with the population at large. Online classes were set to begin today for the first-year students there.

And in a surprising twist, has chronicled, “to date only 3 cases of infection have been officially recorded in Africa – 1 in Egypt, 1 in Algeria and 1 in Nigeria with no deaths.

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