With all the preparations for Hurricane Isaias on Friday, you might have missed crucial details on recent COVID-19 cases provided by health officials, including how the recent surge is blamed in part on individuals attending one particular funeral.
“[I]ndividuals from Grand Bahama, New Providence and Bimini all attended a particular funeral and within a single incubation period, there were increased numbers of cases on those three islands,” said Minister of Health Renward Wells at a press conference.
“Let me be frank, while there is no way to ensure zero risk of infection of COVID-19, doing all that we can to minimize risk and stay safe, requires personal responsibility. Do not socialize with people who do not live with you.”
There were 273 cases reported in The Bahamas last week.
There were 188 reported the week before.
“This rate of increase is worrisome and puts pressure on our health system capacity,” Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pearl McMillan said.
“If allowed to go unchecked, unmitigated, our health system can collapse. Our economy will undergo undue stress and our society will have unwelcome social chaos.”
She added, “In the first wave, 50 percent of infected COVID-19 persons were 50 years or older. In the second wave thus far, only 29 percent of our cases is 50 years or older. A greater percentage of positive cases [is] being recorded in the 20 to 40 age group in this second wave.
“Young people are not invincible. Young people are not immune and so they too must make a habit of these life-saving practices that we continue to advocate for.
“We will continue to monitor the age distribution to see if the number of persons over the age of 50 increases and more importantly, we will also seek to examine the mechanisms by which those young individuals who were exposed to the virus actually became exposed.
“This exposure mechanism will be revealed from our contract tracing efforts.”
She noted an “exponential increase” in cases during The Bahamas’ second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, which began on July 8, just over a week after The Bahamas reopened its borders.
McMillan said more people are being infected in a shorter period of time.
She said the second wave needs to be taken “seriously”.
McMillan also said, “From our local experience and our data, we know that on average each confirmed case produces a minimum of four contacts and in some instances we have had more than 100 contacts. Increasing cases means increasing pressure on the health system to track down the contacts.”
There are 679 cases in The Bahamas; 575 of which were reported since July 8.
Health officials have linked a number of cases with Bahamians traveling abroad.
On Friday, McMillan noted that 4,246 Bahamians traveled internationally between July 1 and July 24.
She said a “majority” of those destinations were COVID-19 hotspots.
“Recall the image shown earlier about how one person can potentially infect many,” she said.
“Our behaviors can put us at risk for getting infected and infecting others with COVID-19. We cannot continue to engage in or condone the same social practices and be alarmed at such rapid increases in cases.”
Grand Bahama is the epicenter of the virus with 320 cases. Three hundred and twelve were reported after July 8.
Dr. Frank Bartlett, who heads the island’s COVID-19 task force, said 189 people were quarantined on the island.
Health officials were following 764 contacts, he said. Of the 764, 160 are travel related.
Bartlett also reported there were six people in the island’s isolation center on Grand Bahama and two were expected to be discharged on Friday.
Six people were in hospital at the time of his report.
Bartlett said the hospitalized cases were having issues with oxygenation or shortness of breath.
Health officials also revealed that the three recent COVID-19 deaths occurred on Grand Bahama.
“We have a 76-year-old female who is a known hypertensive and she had some issues with respiratory distress,” Bartlett said.
“The second was a 54-year-old female who had a history of obesity. She also had obstructive sleep apnea and she had what is called ARDS [or] acute respiratory (distress) syndrome.
“The third person we would have had is a 77-year-old male who had a history, again, of respiratory complaints on admission who deteriorated and passed from respiratory failure.”
So far, 14 people have died from COVID-19 in The Bahamas.