NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Health officials yesterday acknowledged contract tracing efforts faced significant challenges after a fast food worker tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19) last week.
Response coordinator Dr Merceline Dahl-Regis yesterday said the number of contacts will continue to increase, with some cases having an “inordinate number”.
There have been 40 confirmed cases of the virus, and that number is expected to double over the Easter weekend.
“We are in the process of identifying the contacts,” said Dahl-Regis, who was asked whether officials have yet to calculate the number of potential contacts exposed to the infected Wendy’s employee.
“We need the help of the affected individual to identify the contact,” Dahl-Regis said yesterday.
“We need specific information, telephone, address, residence, etc; all that detail we try to elicit as we start out contract tracing.
“We are also doing contract tracing for those who are deceased.”
Wendy’s Bahamas disclosed in a statement on Tuesday that the restaurant was closed over the weekend for cleaning and sanitization.
At yesterday’s press conference, Dahl-Regis noted that the contact tracing for this case will be a challenge.
“The contacts that you see are evolving and increasing,” she said.
“Sometimes depending on the occupation or where the person works you can have an inordinate number of contacts.
“And if you can imagine, if it’s a Wendy’s worker who has serviced the public, it is going to be really quite a challenge for that person to identify all possible contacts. It’s quite a daunting task we are doing.”
A total of 393 people had been tested as of Wednesday, and at least 344 people are in quarantine in government facilities or at home.
When asked yesterday about mass quarantining patients, Chief Medical Officer Pearl McMillan noted that the government continues to use the quarantine facility that was utilized in the early days to house people returning to the country.
“As it relates to self-isolation – persons with symptoms – we have also secured a facility where we will be able to have persons mandatory isolate,” McMillan said, “but self-isolation can occur with persons who, we believe, will be more motivated to do what we are asking them to do.
“We provide them with guidance with what needs to happen.”
As for compliance, officials said they can only “hope that those who have agreed to quarantine in their homes are compliant”.
Dahl-Regis noted that nurses check every day with those who are in quarantine.
Despite ramped up efforts and strict policies implemented to mitigate the spread of the virus, Health Minister Dr Duane Sands has said the country is nowhere near flattening the curve.
“We are in the surge,” Sands said.
“What we will do is look at the number of people with complaints, of flu-like illness, fever and other signs of COVID-19.
“We will look at the number of people in our emergency rooms, and the number of people in our hospitals and then gradually we will start to see a reduction.
“Then we can start to consider whether it is safe to ease up on the restrictive lockdown and curfews. And we are nowhere near there yet.”