~ Persons reluctant to be tested in outreach ~
PHILIPSBURG–The Cul de Sac, Cole Bay and Little Bay areas are districts in Dutch St. Maarten where the majority of persons who tested positive for the coronavirus COVID-19 reside.
Other areas where persons who have tested positive reside are Simpson Bay, Upper Prince’s Quarter and Lower Prince’s Quarter. No positive cases of persons residing in Lowlands and Philipsburg have been recorded to date, although there are persons who are or have been in self-quarantine and self-isolation in these areas at one point or another.
This is according to information from government’s COVID-19 Dashboard shared with Members of Parliament (MPs) during a meeting of the Central Committee of Parliament with Prime Minister and Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Chairperson Silveria Jacobs on Wednesday.
Jacobs said that in the Cul de Sac area (from the cemetery to Reward), there were, at one point or another, 45 persons in self-quarantine, 29 in self-isolation and 17 positive cases. In the Cole Bay area there are 35 persons in quarantine, 26 in isolation and 12 positive cases. In Upper Prince’s Quarter (Sucker Garden area) there were 45 persons in self-quarantine at some point or another; 37 in self-isolation and four positive cases.
Specific figures were not provided for the other areas. The average age of positive cases is around 50 years.
Jacobs said government’s dashboard is not accessible to the public, as authorities do not want persons to misuse the information by zooming in on the map and identifying areas where persons who are COVID-19 positive reside, as these persons are still entitled to doctor/patient confidentiality, even though one MP said he believes that public health should trump privacy, but noted that he respected government’s decision.
Jacobs said authorities had decided to go more into the community for outreach and testing after it became clear that persons had been visiting St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) at a late stage when the hospital could “only keep them comfortable,” but not do much for them medically as the infection had “gone too far.”
She alluded to a certain demographic of the population where cases were realised. She said in particular persons from the Haitian and Dominican Republic communities were not reporting their illnesses to authorities.
She expressed concern about the reluctance of persons to go out and get tested during the community outreach in Sucker Garden on Tuesday.
She explained that when Collective Prevention Services (CPS) went into the area around The Keys in Sucker Garden on Tuesday, at the start of the community outreach programme, of the 85 persons to whom CPS managed to speak, it had been determined that 17 persons in six homes had been exhibiting symptoms. However, only one of the 17 persons visited the mobile unit parked in the area to be tested. The others did not.
“This is below what we expect,” Jacobs said. The mobile unit had been parked in the area and persons who were identified with symptoms could have gone to be tested free of cost. The medical professionals chose to do it this way because if they went into each person’s home, they would have had to change their personal protective equipment after each visit.
Jacobs expressed hope that the persons exhibiting symptoms from Sucker Garden would still go and get tested so that St. Maarten can know the real number of COVID-19 cases.
The community outreach programme continued on Wednesday in the Cay Hill area. Jacobs said the team will continue to go into communities for the outreach programme and to test persons.
Another concern is that churches located in areas not visible from the public roads and where the communities are culturally strong are still holding church services. She said authorities are hoping to change this trend through education, as church services are one of the ways in which COVID-29 can easily spread.
Persons who speak the same languages as those in these districts are going into the communities and speaking to the persons. Educational material was also shared in different languages and persons have been going out with loudspeakers to educate residents in Creole, Spanish, French and English.
Jacobs made clear that anyone, irrespective of their legal status, age, gender or nationality, can and will be tested. As this is a public health crisis, government is footing the bill to test persons. Also, persons who come forward for testing will not be targeted for expulsion from the island after the country recovers from the pandemic, Jacobs had said earlier in the day at the Council of Ministers press briefing.
As it relates to testing kits, she said the country had received a donation to purchase testing kits. The country has received 97 test kits and is expecting another 480, plus another 500 are expected to arrive in the country by the end of next week. Health Care Laboratory St. Maarten (HCLS) has the ability to process up to 75 tests daily. A total of six nurses are qualified to swab a patient for the COVID-19 test. The process takes 15 to 45 minutes per swab.
Additionally, government is looking for another “isolation hotel” in which more persons can be isolated if the need arises. Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunication (TEATT) Ludmila de Weever is assisting in this process.
MPs asked many questions during the meeting, which Jacobs answered. Some MPs also gave suggestions on how the country can tackle the crisis, commended government and, in some cases, were critical of some aspects of the country’s response.
Bron: Daily Herald