Positivity rate is “promising”, but does not factor in antigen testing as yet
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — With continued double-digit cases of the novel coronavirus, The Bahamas has not emerged out of the second wave, according to Dr Nikkiah Forbes, director of the National HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Programme at the Bahamas Ministry of Health.
“The curve is not exactly flat,” she told Eyewitness News.
“The cases are not exactly low.
“If we go and look at this whole epidemic curve from the beginning from March, you will see there were periods where we enjoyed no cases and cases in the single digits.
“We are not there yet, so we have to keep in mind if we put our guard down, cases could start to go up again.
“And this is the thing, I have heard other [health] professionals say, when we think about waves, we have to think about when waves are over.
“The wave is not over yet; cases are coming down, but it is largely dependent on our actions.”
New COVID cases fell 29 percent last week compared to the week prior.
New Providence also experienced a 42 percent drop in cases last week, the fifth straight week of declines.
Additionally, the positivity rate in The Bahamas — the percentage of people who test positive out of total tests completed — has dropped from over 22 percent in September and October to as low as eight percent in recent days.
According to Erin Bromage, a comparative immunologist at the University of Massachusetts, adequate testing and tracing take place when test rates remain around five percent or lower for two weeks.
To the recent trend, Forbes said this is promising, but added that the “race is not won yet”.
She pointed out that more antigen testing is available and people have been opting to have those tests, which have yet to be included in the overall testing figures.
“We ought to continue to be cautious because we have not eliminated COVID-19, so things could go up if people are gathering together,” Forbes said.
“If there is no change in the mobility of people, and people are not following public health guidelines, then cases can easily start to increase again.
“So, we definitely have to have learned lessons and following the prevention measures.”
With the upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas season, which health officials recognize could incentivize residents to gather, Forbes said: “All we can do is urge caution and ask people to keep in mind that COVID spreads easily — it’s very contagious — and people gathering closely together, and their masks will be off while eating, and holiday parties, drinking and so on, that would be all that would be needed for COVID to be transmitted, and quite a number of people can get sick.”
Forbes referenced the case of a 57-year-old man in Arlington, Texas, who attended his nephew’s small indoor birthday celebration with 13 other relatives earlier this month.
No one wore masks.
All 15 family members contracted the virus.
Relatives took to social media to encourage others to avoid gathering outside their immediate household.
At least one family member required hospitalization.
Yesterday, Forbes said residents in The Bahamas could face a similar fate if they take the chance to gather and have events in close spaces, forgetting the public health guidelines.
Asked whether the health team expects an increase in cases as a result of holiday gatherings, Forbes said while it is challenging to predict what sort of increase could be observed, there are those who have not followed the guidelines and will continue to do so.
“In that vein, we might start to see an increase in the number of cases
“It would be hard to predict what kind of percentage rise you would see, but keep in mind this is reliant on individual and collective action.
“So, if a few cases that transmit COVID go into the workplace and the community, and there is community spread if people are largely not following public health guidance, then cases will go up and surge and we saw that happen not too long ago in July.”
After The Bahamas reopened its borders to international commercial carriers on July 1, cases surged from 104 into the thousands.
The government attributed the increase in large part to residents traveling to hotspot areas and returning to the nation.
At the time, citizens and residents traveling within a 72-hour period were not required to obtain a COVID-19 negative test, a policy that has long been reversed.
As of Sunday, 18 more cases of COVID-19 were recorded in The Bahamas, pushing the total cases to 7,431.
Of these, 1,562 remain active, while another 5,652 or 76 percent have recovered.
The Ministry of Health reported 212 tests were conducted on Sunday, including five repeated tests.
This places The Bahamas’ daily positivity rate at 8.6 percent.