All posts by The Nassau Guardian

55 new cases

The Ministry of Health reported 55 new COVID-19 cases yesterday.

Fifty-one cases were reported on New Providence and three on Abaco.

The location of one of the cases was pending.

New Providence has more cases than all the other islands combined.

There are 2,107 cases on the island. When totaled, the Family Islands have 858 cases excluding the 111 cases that still have pending locations.

Grand Bahama has the second highest number of cases with 601, followed by Abaco with 104.

Health officials are investigating another possible COVID death.

Twelve deaths are currently under investigation.

There have been 69 COVID-19 deaths and nine non-COVID-related deaths.

The number of recoveries has exceeded the number of active cases.

There are 1,464 active cases and 1,533 recoveries.

The Bahamas has reported 3,087 cases since March.

Equestrian Bahamas teams up with IEA to create history

It has been a year of achievements for Equestrian Bahamas, and this past summer, the federation achieved another milestone by expanding its youth scholastic riding program to partner with the United States-based Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA), becoming the first international affiliate in IEA’s history.

Equestrian Bahamas considers it a tremendous honor to have been chosen by the IEA as their first international partner. Both organizations emphasize promoting riding as a sport for all and as a pathway to educational opportunities.

The launch of the partnership was originally scheduled for October 2020, but unfortunately has been postponed until the 2021-2022 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The IEA is the largest interscholastic equestrian league in North America with over 14,500 members in 46 states. The Bahamas has been designated Region 13 of IEA Zone 4. That zone covers Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Unfortunately, this exciting development faced a major roadblock with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the IEA competition season already underway in the US, The Bahamas region officials were forced to make a difficult decision to postpone participation until next season.

Local trainers Erika Adderley-Coello, of Mariposa Stables, and Kimberly Johnson, of Camperdown Equestrian Centre, were appointed as region president and region vice president, respectively.

“We were disappointed to have to cancel this year’s participation in the IEA as the new Region 13 due to COVID,” said Adderley-Coello. “We are grateful that IEA officials agreed with us [in] postponing our start to next season.”

Through its affiliation as an IEA region, riders in the Bahamian Interscholastic Equestrian League (BIEL) will travel each year to compete against riders from all over North America. The relationship opens the way to multiple educational opportunities such as access to thousands of dollars in IEA college scholarship awards, and participation in the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) Equestrian College Search Program.

One young rider, Mila Sands, has already benefited from the Equestrian Bahamas and IEA partnership. Sands, a 10th-grade student at Queen’s College, was a part of the Bahamian team that rode at the IEA Zone 4 Invitational in Conyers, Georgia, in February. Her stellar performance earned her the Steward’s Award: a fully paid, week-long summer experience at the prestigious Chatham Hall School in Chatham, Virginia. Sands was unable to attend this summer because of the pandemic but was granted an extension to attend in 2021.

Equestrian Bahamas and the IEA continue to share a common mission of promoting equestrian sport to school-age riders and providing competitive and educational opportunities. Riders and coaches look forward to participating in the IEA next year.

Expedience versus reality

A communicable disease outbreak does not bow to the expediencies of the day.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, heralding a three-week goalpost, foreshadowed to Parliament that Family Islands could “very soon” be declared “COVID-free”, and stated his desire to momentarily make the same declaration nationwide.

His comments point to an intention to market the country as a COVID-free destination ahead of government’s October 15 relaunch of commercial tourism.

But saying something does not make it so, and data produced by the Ministry of Health does not support the prime minister’s COVID-free prefiguring.

Moreover, denying the realities of COVID-19’s prevalence in The Bahamas — which may ultimately lead to scaling back necessary responses to that prevalence — puts both residents and the country’s visitors at risk.

We have been down this road before.

Prior to the July 1 reopening, confirmed COVID-19 cases held at 104 for an extended period, which Minnis touted as evidence that community spread had been arrested.

But confirmed cases can only be determined through testing, and the country’s level of testing had significantly decreased during that period, a period when Minnis as then-minister of health, told Parliament that widespread testing was not necessary.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pearl McMillan advised this week that the country has an average COVID-19 positivity rate of 25 percent — a rate that is five times the World Health Organization’s (WHO) five percent positivity threshold to determine the safety of reopening a country’s economy.

The COVID-19 positivity rate is a function of the prevalence of infection and the number of tests being performed, and a high positivity rate not only suggests a high rate of community spread, but indicates that more testing should be done to keep pace with levels of disease transmission, according to the WHO.

Our alarmingly high positivity rate points to the need for more testing, not less, and signals that our numbers of confirmed cases are only a fraction of the total number of cases nationwide.

Yet, the ministry’s data shows a marked decrease in the number of COVID-19 tests performed within the last two weeks.

If this becomes a trend, the country would once again be moving in the wrong direction with respect to detection and control of COVID-19, even as it prepares to embark on broader face-to-face schooling and a tourism relaunch in coming weeks.

Opposition members did not attend yesterday’s sitting in response to confirmation that a House of Assembly staffer, who had direct contact with MPs, tested positive for the disease.

The opposition maintained that attendance would send the wrong message to the country, and expose parliamentarians to unnecessary risk.

Minnis chided Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis’ absence, claiming that having recently recovered from COVID-19, Davis is now immune to the virus.

As politically expedient as the prime minister may have deemed his assertion to be, the reality is that the jury is still out in the scientific community on immunity to COVID-19, and researchers are not yet certain of the extent to which reinfection can and does occur.

More importantly, Minnis’ statement implies acknowledgement of risk to the Parliament that he insists Davis should have no fear of, which, in effect, implicates the governing side in exposing the legislature to that risk.

And with no announced testing for MPs by the prime minister, the now commonplace message of expediency delivered, is that government members posses an inherent immunity to COVID-19.

Perhaps one of the most glaring examples of recent history repeating itself, and of expediency running counter to reality, is Minnis’ notice to Parliament that he intends to bring a resolution to extend his emergency rule for yet another month.

On the one hand, the prime minister expressed confidence that the country could begin to reach COVID-free status as early as the first full week in October, and on the other hand, he announced plans to bring a resolution just over a week before that time, which will declare a state of emergency still exists due to the country’s number of COVID-19 cases.

In doing so, Minnis contradicted his own presage of a COVID-free country in time to welcome new visitors, and has once again demonstrated that regardless of realities and exigencies thereto on the ground, he is weighted toward what is expedient.

Beyond COVID-19, it is an apparent propensity the country must pay very close attention to in the coming months.

To bury or not to bury the dead

Dear Editor,

In spite of the many challenges financially and otherwise facing our government, it should not become unaware or callous to the need of dignity for the dead, be they having departed this life from COVID or any other catastrophic natural disaster. Thus, I venture to propose the following for the proper care of those dearly departed souls now accumulating in inordinate numbers at our healthcare facilities.

Fundamentally, remember that these human beings are, even though physically departed, still powerfully aware of what treatment is afforded them via their earthly remains.

It is logically understandable that most of their families are in desperation, themselves, financially, combined with extraordinary fear of handling the remains of loved ones, especially those who have succumbed to the virus.

As far as I am aware, the Public Hospitals Authority has chapel facilities at the hospital. Why, then, cannot our compassionate government make expeditious and timely arrangements for a small and private family ceremony, regularly for sending forth their loved ones in appropriate and dignified form?

Then, too, arrangements can be made for cremation of the remains by the government, and the precious ashes handed to the family for safe and reverent keeping. This can be handled with all due COVID-19 protocols. Families can even be given the right to request their own minister of the gospel to conduct an abbreviated ceremony.

There should be no need for the despicable, long-term storage of so many human remains in the morgue or in refrigerated trailers.

We should recall with heart-wrenching aches the inhumane conditions afforded the many human remains in Abaco post-Dorian. We have to have learned a lesson from that totally unacceptable state of affairs.

As with post-Dorian, this natural disaster, now with COVID, in the midst of family economic desperation and depression, naturally, logically, responsibly and Christly, our government must assume responsibility in this critical and national matter.

This burden should not become the ultimate and sole responsibility of families in mourning and travail.

Remember it’s the people’s time — dead or alive!

Joseph Darville

Vice president, Rights Bahamas

Marcus Garvey and the two Bahamians who deeply influenced him

Dear Editor,

In her book titled “Garvey and Garveyism”, the late Amy Jacques Garvey claimed that the late Pan-Africanist and Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) founder, Marcus Mosiah Garvey, was deeply influenced by a Bahamian physician, activist and politician named Dr. Joseph Robert Love.

Love, born on New Providence in October 1839, started publishing the influential Jamaica Advocate newspaper in 1894, while living in Jamaica, where he worked assiduously to improve the overall conditions of the Jamaican Negro population.

Garvey followed in the footsteps of his role model by publishing several newspapers during his controversial career: Garvey’s Watchman, the New Jamaican, La Nacionale, La Prensa and the Negro World. The Negro World served as the official organ of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League — a civil rights organization that Garvey, along with his first wife, Amy Ashwood, founded in August of 1914 in Jamaica. Garvey probably followed Love’s example in engaging in civil rights activism.

Garvey would also work for Pan-Africanist Duse Mohammad Ali’s African Times and Orient Review publication while living in England between 1912 and 1913. At its peak, the UNIA had a membership of over six million, with branches throughout the United States, Central and South America, Africa and the West Indies.

A UNIA branch was in The Bahamas during the 1920s and 1930s, as per E. David Cronon in his Black Moses. The Black Moses, as Garvey was called, as was Sir Lynden O. Pindling, would influence many prominent Black leaders, such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan, Elijah Muhammad, Kwame Nkrumah, Nelson Mandela and possibly even Pindling.

Headquartered in Harlem, New York, after his migration to the United States in 1916, Garvey’s UNIA experienced phenomenal growth, much to the annoyance of W.E.B. Du Bois and other NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) executives, who viewed Garveyism as a threat to race relations. Garvey’s arrival was one year removed from Booker T. Washington’s death, whom he had hoped to meet at his Tuskegee Institute.

Garvey, as was the case with King and other Southern Christian Leadership Conference officials, was closely monitored by J. Edgar Hoover and the Bureau of Investigation. Unfortunately, Garvey’s meteoric rise coincided with the First Red Scare, in which many civil rights organizations were suspected of having communist ties.

Born in Saint Ann’s Bay on August 17, 1887, Garvey was born four years before Haile Selassie I and 10 years before Rasta pioneer Leonard Percival Howell. All three are the most important figures in Rastafari, with Selassie and Garvey, along with the late Prince Emmanuel Charles Edwards, being members of the Ethiopian Africa Black International Congress triumvirate.

Notwithstanding his prominent status in Rastology, Garvey was a lifelong Roman Catholic.

UNIA delegates would condemn the Rastafarian sect at one of their conventions in Jamaica in 1935 or thereabouts, despite Howell being a Garveyite, according to the late Jamaican anthropologist Barry Chevannes.

Interestingly, another Bahamian would have a massive influence on Garvey and his movement: one Joshua Cockburn.

According to historian Dr. Gail Saunders, Garvey, while giving a speech in Nassau during the 1920s, referred to Cockburn as a “damn scamp”.

Cockburn had persuaded Garvey to purchase an old unseaworthy ship named the S.S. Yarmouth for $165,000, with the down payment being $135,000, for Garvey’s Black Star Line shipping company.

The S.S. Yarmouth was renamed the S.S. Frederick Douglass. According to Amy Jacques Garvey, Cockburn, a certified boat captain, allegedly received a kickback of $1,600 for the sale, despite receiving a lucrative monthly salary of $400 from Garvey. In 1919, $400 had the purchasing power of $5,990.77. Cockburn was a well-to-do Bahamian living in Harlem, perhaps within miles of the UNIA Liberty Hall.

Cockburn would go on to serve as a key prosecution witness in Garvey’s mail fraud trial in 1923. The Black Star Line shipping company would be Garvey’s undoing, owing to the blatant incompetence and negligence of crew members, some of whom were Hoover agents.

Being convicted by an all-white jury, after a four-week trial, Garvey would go on to spend about three years at the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary, after about two years of appeals.

With his five-year prison sentence being commuted by President Calvin Coolidge in 1927, he was subsequently deported to Jamaica as an undesirable alien.

Without the financial backing of his African American base, Garveyism died a slow death. And a Bahamian, Joshua Cockburn, played a significant role in its demise.

Two unknown Bahamians, Dr. Love and Cockburn, influenced the greatest civil rights leader in the first half of the 20th Century.

One assisted in his meteoric rise, while the other assisted in his demise.

Kevin Evans

Trial and error 

Dear Editor,

The return to The Bahamas of Leader of the Progressive Liberal Party Philip Brave Davis, QC, is welcomed news.

First of all, the Lord Jesus Christ, has been merciful to Brave. Secondly, the PLP needs Brave, more than ever before as The Bahamas transitions from the Minnis regime.

The PLP needs to urgently conceptualize, devise and suggest in the public domain an economic and social charter with the unwashed masses as we prepare for the general election, which I submit will be held long before the expiration of the parliamentary term. One need not be a rocket scientist. The unmistakable handwriting is on the wall for all to see, even those who are visually impaired.

Brave’s successful treatment for COVID-19 and recovery were essential in keeping the PLP on even keel. That party does not have a deep leadership basis. I state boldly and without fear of credible contradiction — the deputy leader is, no doubt, a good Bahamian and his day may well come one day but not now.

Real PLPs respect Brother Cooper but he is a political novice and is not, so they say, ingrained in the natural philosophy of the iconic PLP. Some suggest that he may be a Christie ‘plant’ or a Manchurian candidate for the FMN.

In Bahamian politics either you pay your dues or, like the competent authority, who got his ultimate post by accident, you get where you need to go by default. If Brent Symonette were a ‘black man, he would have naturally succeed Hubert Alexander Ingraham.

I have been privileged to know both of the Huberts. Ingraham, despite his obvious shortcomings, was a real leader. Minnis seems to be a pretender leader based on trial and error.

May I be allowed to say why? Ingraham was a man whose word was his bond. He was a gruff but gifted leader who was able, probably still is, to effectively communicate with the unwashed masses. Mind you, he was no orator, like Brother Christie, but he was capable of laying out a workable plan and ensure the means to play it out.

Our beloved (or is it most hated) prime minister and his people them abruptly shuttered the entire nation in March of this year, with scant notice. Why they did so was never fully explained, even if some of the measures initially worked.

Without common sense and scientific public data, they allowed Bahamians (who were supposed to be broke ) to get to the USA for supposed medical treatment and back to school shopping. 

Brave has been granted a second lease on life.

The PLP must get battle ready; select a slate of sensible and nation building candidates, no flaky or jokey candidates. No individuals who seek to get into the House for personal and economic enrichment. We are no longer for that.

The ravages of Dorian should have been a wake-up call for Minnis and his crew but it was simply, it seems, an opportunity to appoint multiple disaster people and agencies. There seems to be no accountable or fiscal responsibility.

Brave must now step up to the plate. The days of doll house and party politics, as we know or recognize them are over. Chester and Fred Mitchell, et al, are great people and party members but Brave is the de facto and de jure (leader) of the PLP.

If Brave were to realize this, he could order his prime minister’s suit now to be sworn in by the end of next year, if not before. The handwriting is on the wall. Trial by error is not working except for those in the ruling elite.  

Ortland H. Bodie, Jr.

RBDF calls off search of missing people

The Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) announced last night that it had called off the search for five people who went missing after the boat they were traveling on capsized near Chub Cay on Saturday. 

According to the RBDF, the missing people are Haitian and Jamaican nationals.

“After some four days of canvassing an expansive area of waters around Chub Cay and the Berry Islands and based on wind and tide models, we have suspended search and rescue operations for the five persons reported missing at sea last weekend,” Commander William Sturrup, the defense force’s search and rescue coordinator, said in a statement.

“There were no signs of life or wreckage found during the helo overflights or vessel patrols in that area. The defense force is grateful to interagency partners and the United States Coast Guard for their support in this activity and the Royal Bahamas Defence Force remains poised to keeping Bahamian waters safe.”

The defense force said 12 people involved in the incident were rescued on Saturday.

Let’s Swim Bahamas releases end-of-year report

One of the most comprehensive and inclusive swim programs in the country, Let’s Swim Bahamas, has released its end-of-year report, and whereas it operated in the red for the 2019-2020 fiscal period, directors Andy and Nancy Knowles are encouraged by the support that they continue to receive. 

“Despite having a rough start due to Hurricane Dorian and finish due to COVID-19 this year, Let’s Swim Bahamas has made significant strides in reaching our long-term goals,” the report read. “We cannot thank you all enough for your support and encouragement as we continue to work toward Let’s Swim Bahamas, giving every child an opportunity to learn how to swim.”

From September 2019 to March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic reached The Bahamas, almost 7,000 lessons were taught to students – more than double from the previous year. “This increase is the result of moving from two to four lessons per day and more grades and schools participating in the program,” the report stated.

The program operated primarily at four sites – St. Andrew’s School, the University of The Bahamas (UB), Queen’s College and Lyford Cay School. The Betty Kelly-Kenning National Swim Complex was utilized for advanced students who were displaced by Hurricane Dorian in September. The program has embraced a new partnership with Queen’s College and the Barracuda Swim Club, and in so doing, four schools were added to the program – Uriah McPhee, Claridge Primary, Palmdale Primary and Centreville Primary.

Other primary schools in the program are: Thelma Gibson, Sadie Curtis, Sandilands, Woodcock, Eva Hilton, T.G. Glover, Albury Sayles, Stephen Dillet, Adelaide and Gambier. A total of 142 students from six schools at two sites were scheduled to start classes on March 23, but that had to be rescheduled due to COVID-19. Plans were also made to start classes for grade four students from four schools at South Beach Pools, but those plans had to be put on hold as well. The four schools are Cleveland Eneas, Gerald Cash, Sybil Strachan and Carlton Francis.

A couple of schools, Thelma Gibson and Sandilands, had students from grades one to six taking swimming lessons.

A total of five students completed all 10 stations of the lessons, and received the Swim America Award of Achievement each.

The program’s second edition of “Snorkel and Tim go for a Swim” water safety coloring and activity book was distributed to all grade one students in government primary schools throughout The Bahamas, courtesy of sponsors Wendy’s Bahamas Ltd., Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen and Marco’s Pizza.

There were 19 after-school and summer scholarship swimmers from nine different schools, which represented a low number because the program was unable to be offered during spring and summer 2020 due to physical distancing guidelines and restrictions from COVID-19.

Sandals Resorts joined the sponsorship team this year.

“We are excited to be working with Sandals and Julien Brice of Myrtha Pools in developing a plan to bring swimming lessons to the students of Great Exuma,” the report read. “We have been able to achieve all of the above because of our excellent and enthusiastic team of site supervisors, coaches, marshals and bus drivers/companies. Also, the schools (principals and teachers) have been much more supportive of the Let’s Swim Bahamas program.”

In 2021, directors of the program plan to continue to improve the registration process, with the intent of it being quicker, more efficient and thorough, with an emphasis on a deadline date. They also plan to renew their four-year agreement with the Ministry of Education, produce a second mini documentary and continue to work within the confines of five sites depending on what COVID-19 physical distancing protocols are announced.

The program received donations of over $70,000 during the 2019-2020 fiscal period.

PLP will not attend House today

Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition will not attend today’s sitting of the House of Assembly after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19, Leader of Opposition Business Picewell Forbes said last night. 

Forbes said Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis tried unsuccessfully to contact Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis regarding the issue.

The Central and South Andros MP said given the potential contact the positive case had with parliamentarians, the House should not meet and those who were exposed should be quarantined and potentially tested. 

“The public is advised that in light of a reported positive COVID-19 test result by a House staff, opposition House members have taken the decision not to attend the next sitting of the House scheduled for Wednesday, 16th September, 2020,” Forbes said.

“We believe this decision to be in line with the current COVID-19 health protocols.

“The leader of the opposition tried unsuccessfully to reach the prime minister about the resumption of Parliament tomorrow because we believe that in the circumstance, parliamentarians would be sending the wrong message to the Bahamian people and potentially expose House members to an unnecessary risk.

“The opposition leader also sent a note to the prime minister on this matter at the time of this release but got no response.

“Further, the established protocols in these circumstances require the closure of the venue in question, followed by deep cleaning or sanitizing of the same.

“Additionally, all who would have come into contact with the infected person would be asked to quarantine for 14 days and perhaps secure a COVID-19 test.”

Forbes noted that House Speaker Halson Moultrie indicated that “he would get tested and advise House members to do the same”.

“In light of the foregoing, I urge the government to revisit this decision,” Forbes said.

The House last met on September 9. The only opposition members present were Forbes and Exumas and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper. 

Englerston MP Glenys Hanna Martin and Davis, who recently recovered from COVID-19, were absent.

In statement yesterday, the Cabinet Office said the Senate and the House of Assembly were deep cleaned and sanitized following the revelation.

“The Ministry of Health has initiated contact tracing to determine the level of exposure to employees, and all other protocols are being followed,” it read.

“Persons who interacted with the employee, without following the preventative measures of wearing a mask, maintaining physical distance and limiting the time spent with the employee to less than 15 minutes will be required to quarantine.” 

The Cabinet Office noted that the House will meet today for a “short session with a reduced number of members physically in attendance”.

A quorum of the House consists of 10 members.

Moultrie told The Guardian yesterday: “…I believe we are the leaders and we should set the example and lead by example.

“The health protocols call for self-quarantine if you haven’t tested positive but you’ve been exposed. And so, that would be my recommendation as the speaker.”

24 new cases; one additional death

The Ministry of Health reported 24 new COVID-19 cases yesterday.

This pushed the total number of COVID-19 cases in the country to 3,032.

Officials reported 20 cases on New Providence, one on Grand Bahama and one on Long Island.

The locations for two cases were pending.

Officials also reported on additional death, that of an 83-year-old man from New Providence who died on September 11. 

This pushed the number of COVID-19 deaths to 69.

Eleven deaths are under investigation.

Ninety-one additional COVID-19 recoveries were reported as well.

There have been 1,482 recoveries.

There are are 1,461 active cases and 66 hospitalized cases.