Experts hoping for COVID-19 cases “peak” this week

Experts hoping for COVID-19 cases “peak” this week
Dr Merceline Dahl-Regis (file photo)

Expanded testing in New Providence, GB, and numerous Family Islands

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Health officials hope cases of COVID-19 in The Bahamas will peak within a week, though this heavily depends on how well the public follows social distancing guidelines and other measures.

“A lot is going to depend on the cases and how the country performs in terms of the measures already put in place — social distancing, no large gatherings of more than 10 [people], hand washing and all the measures that you have been promoting in your media,” said Dr Merceline Dahl-Regis, health consultant to the Office of the Prime Minister, during a broadcasted press conference on Thursday.

Asked when cases could peak based on data modeling, Dahl-Regis said: “Let us hope that it is this week. We are following it very closely, but I’m unable to say because each week, based on the findings, we have to look at the various models and see what fits the data.”

She continued: “If they are adhered to and if our case presentations warrant it, we would certainly revise our recommendations.”

Health experts have recommended no further relaxation of restrictions, though it remains to be seen whether complete lockdowns will be announced for the month of May.

A ‘Long-term projection from Richard’s curve’ places the number of COVID-19 cases at around 100 by May 31, while a ‘Long term projection from Hill’s curve’ projects around 100 cases by the end of May.

However, data modeling health officials presented last week showed as many as 300 cases by the end of May if there were “exponential growth” — two to three cases on average per day.

Since Sunday, there have been 12 new infections — an average of 2.4 per day over the period.

“We were looking at the exponential regression with four cases being the ceiling,” she said yesterday, adding what began as two cases within a two-day interval grew to four cases per day.

“I would submit to you that there will be an increase number of cases related to the investigations that are ongoing as a result of the outbreak situation in the Medical Surgical Ward of Princess Margaret Hospital, and we still have community spread.

“So, collectively there is an explanation for the increased number of cases and I anticipate that we will have to go into a different set of modeling once we have the data in the next five days.”

According to Dahl-Regis, the modeling factors in other variables beyond the number of confirmed cases, including when symptoms begin, the time of the laboratory testing, among other considerations.

“I am hoping the situation that we were in a week ago, and where we are now that within a week’s time, we’d have a better idea — plus, we are putting in, as you have heard the minister say, additional measures that prevent the spread of asymptomatic individuals in the community and we are testing more. So, it’s a delicate balance, but we will have that determination probably in a week’s time. We may, we may not. We are hoping that we do.”

Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands said the more adherent the Bahamian people remain to the public health advise, the “sooner we are going to get out of this”.

“And then, we will have to be deliberate and cautious and careful; in a methodical rollout of the reopening,” the minister said.

“At this point we have no time for that.

“We have no date when that is going to happen, at least for the recommendations to the competent authority.”

According to health officials, testing has expanded on New Providence and Grand Bahama, and taken place across a number of Family Islands, including Bimini, North and South Eleuthera, Exuma, Harbour Island.

Those tests have all come back negative for the virus.

As of yesterday, there were 72 cases of COVID-19 in The Bahamas.

There have been three confirmed cases in Bimini, and one death from that island.

Expanded testing on that island is expected to see 40 to 50 people screened, according to Sands.