CAYMAN ISLANDS (March 17, 2020) – Health City Cayman Islands is reporting that the first 19 of the hospital’s staff members tested for COVID-19 are negative for the virus. The results of the tests run by the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority (HSA) were announced at a Cayman Islands Government press conference by Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee on Tuesday, March 17.
Since the tests were performed for the first time in the Cayman Islands, the samples will also be sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) as a quality control measure, and confirmation of the initial results should be received in the next few days.
In total, forty Health City staff members and their families who were considered to be in direct risk were immediately quarantined and had samples taken from them once a patient at the facility tested positive for the virus on Thursday, March 12.
“For these first 19 tests to have negative results is very good news,” Dr. Binoy Chattuparambil, Clinical Director of Health City Cayman Islands said. “These were the first samples sent for testing and were taken from those staff members who were in direct contact with the patient, and some of whom also exhibited flu-like symptoms.”
The hospital quarantined and tested all staff members and their families who were considered to be at direct risk for exposure to the COVID-19 virus. The level of contact with the patient determined the risk level. Additionally, any of those staff members who displayed flu-like symptoms were included in the testing group.
“As we await the remaining test results, we are secure in the knowledge that we at Health City have taken rigorous measures to contain any possible spread of the virus, and have also been advised, instructed and reassured by Public Health England officials in this effort that we are taking all of the necessary and correct steps,” Dr. Chattuparambil explained.
He further outlined how the levels of contact were assessed for testing.
“In the context of COVID-19, there is an important degree of difference between what is considered ‘social contact’ – such as passing someone in a hallway; ‘infectious contact’ – such as being sneezed or coughed on by a symptomatic contact; or ‘secondary infectious contact’ – such as touching a surface that a symptomatic person has sneezed or coughed on. Those individuals who have tested positive would have had ‘infectious contact’ or ‘secondary infectious contact’. In this instance, it is unlikely that a positive test result would have resulted from ‘secondary infectious contact’ as Health City employs stringent infection control procedures including mandatory regular hand-sanitation and hand-washing by staff members, and ongoing cleaning and sanitation of the facility,” Dr. Chattuparambil said.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), COVID-19 can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people then catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. People can also catch COVID-19 if they breathe in droplets from a person with COVID-19 who coughs out or exhales droplets. Studies to date suggest that the virus that causes COVID-19 is mainly transmitted through contact with respiratory droplets rather than through the air. (Source: https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses )
Currently testing capabilities are limited on island and testing for COVID-19 and at present is being restricted to symptomatic high risk contacts. Symptoms include fever, respiratory symptoms such as sore throat, cough, chest tightness or shortness of breath.
According to the WHO, the COVID-19 incubation period – which means the time between catching the virus and beginning to have symptoms of the disease – ranges from one to 14 days, and is most commonly around five days. (Source: https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses )
Dr. Chattuparambil counseled members of the public to remain vigilant in protecting themselves from infection.
“Please rest assured that we are abiding by the highest standards of infection control and have also taken expert advice on the containment of COVID-19. I would like to continue to urge everyone to follow standard precautionary measures against contracting the virus, including regular hand-washing and practicing good respiratory hygiene,” he said.
Dr. Chattuparambil advised that Health City is continuing to work closely with Cayman Islands Government health officials on regular updates regarding the local COVID-19 situation and will issue further updates as soon as any new information is available.
Individuals who develop any flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, runny nose etc., are advised to contact the Cayman Islands Public Health Department at [email protected] or via the flu hotline at 1-800-534-8600.