What the statistics don’t tell us

The Ministry of Health is continuing with the issuance of its daily COVID-19 dashboard, but there are details regarding apparent trends in recent weeks that the numbers themselves do not provide.

In the week between February 3 and February 10, 80 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed — 62 of which are on New Providence — and hospitalization numbers on the island have also increased.

The spike in COVID-19 cases in the capital has prompted the reopening of Doctors Hospital West, where the government has contracted beds for the care of COVID-19 patients.

Yet, the ministry has provided no recent information on what accounts for the uptick in cases, whether it be due primarily to clusters of cases, or whether there is early evidence of new community spread.

Such information is important in its own right, and is pertinent given that government is aiming to return to face-to-face learning for schools in New Providence later this month, with no indication of whether routine testing for teachers and staff is a part of the Ministry of Education’s reopening plan.

With campaign season in full swing, inclusive of door to door activities and increased travel from New Providence to other islands, strict adherence to safety protocols that include pre-testing for travel is critical on the part of the prime minister and his delegations, as well as all political parties and independent candidates.

At the end of January, the ministry introduced reporting on confirmed imported COVID-19 cases.

At last report on February 6, 18 imported cases have been reported —16 in the capital and two in Eleuthera.

What these numbers do not tell us is how many of those imported cases are visitors, the travel history of those confirmed to have imported the virus, and how many were detected as a follow-up to fifth day antigen testing required for all incoming travelers.

Health officials have also not advised on whether there have been challenges in contact tracing for COVID-19-positive visitors; and no new information has been provided on whether the delivery of fifth- day antigen tests nationwide and the enforcement of that testing protocol, has improved since last report that close to half of all eligible incoming travelers had not been tested.

Global analysts are expressing concern that the emergence and spread of COVID-19 variants is impeding economic recovery and making vaccination initiatives more complicated.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr. Delon Brennen recently said the government is still awaiting test results that would indicate whether any of the known variants are present in The Bahamas.

Speaking on a BBC broadcast this week, microbiologist Sharon Peacock said the UK’s Kent variant was likely to “sweep the world”, adding that the danger of a larger number of deaths from the variant comes about because the mutation has a much higher rate of transmission.

South Africa recently paused its rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine following a study that showed disappointing results against the COVID-19 variant sweeping that country.

In its financial report for 2020, AstraZeneca said that it could take anywhere from six to nine months to develop vaccines against new variants of COVID-19.

The first two COVID-19 related deaths for the year were recorded this week, as well as a third death now under investigation, which has been added to 15 other deaths that have been inexplicably listed as being under investigation for a length of time well in excess of that which ought to have yielded a determination on cause of death.

As the pandemic drags on, most Bahamians are continuing to make sacrifices to keep themselves and their loved ones safe, but COVID-19 fatigue has resulted in some residents paying less and less attention to daily dashboard statistics.

Failing to provide details those statistics don’t tell us, could contribute to a letting down of the guard that can prove counterproductive to COVID-19 prevention efforts.zzΩΩΩzzzΩ

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