Two hotel workers at a certified property among St. Lucia’s COVID-19 cases

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By STAR Reporter -October 27, 2020

Two hospitality workers at a COVID-19 certified property are among Saint Lucia’s recent positive cases. The disclosure was made by Chief Medical Officer Dr. Sharon Belmar-George at a press conference earlier today. She revealed that case #41 (recorded on October 22) and case #58 (recorded on October 26), are employed at the same certified property. Meanwhile, case #27 was a visitor recorded on September 8.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Sharon Belmar-George (left) and National Epidemiologist Dr. Michelle Francois.

Dr. Belmar-George stated that contact tracing was done and that there has been no outbreak in relation to the cases. She also indicated that due to adherence to protocols by certified properties, the transmission risk was seen as low following investigations.

Where did the workers contract the virus?Advertisement

National Epidemiologist Dr. Michelle Francois said that the workers likely contracted the virus outside the property. Given the time period between when the visitor and workers tested positive, Francois asserted that there was “absolutely no link.”

She indicated that the visitor “came in with a result that was not accurate”, and was found positive after he was tested. “But the other visitors we have at these establishments, these individuals get tested prior to going in. So they come in with their negative test and we have not had, to date, anybody who is symptomatic or anybody who has tested positive at any one of these institutions,” she said.

Francois says that the properties submit daily logs and test results of all visitors. “So we have not had reports of any positive visitors at any one of these facilities, so it is likely that they [the two workers] would have contracted it on the outside.”

The National Epidemiologist did not rule out the possibility of the workers contracting the virus from a visitor but stressed that the risk outside is very high. She explained: “…We tend to believe that there is a great risk on the outside as opposed to the inside, where you have most of the persons being tested and coming in with that negative result, compared to most of our population who are on the outside, who do not know their status, who may be asymptomatic.”

Pointing out that many of the cases have been asymptomatic or have had very mild signs and symptoms, she went on: “We have persons out there who are asymptomatic, who have very mild signs and symptoms that they did not pay attention to, and that are interfacing with each other without masks on buses, in recreation at bars etc.

“So the risk out there is very real and it’s very great and so we think that that is a strong possibility. I’m not ruling out altogether that [the workers] could have gotten it from a visitor but our risk right now on the ground is quite high,” Francois said.

Investigations into the source of infection continue.

Which certified property?

As of October 27, there are 30 COVID-19 certified properties. The CMO was also quizzed regarding why the hotel was not identified. Dr. Belmar-George stated that the Ministry of Health respects the privacy of persons and businesses, and that this information would only be released for public health reasons.

Said Dr. Belmar-George: “Generally when we report on cases, we’ve kept to a certain standard. We would give the age, we would give the sex of the person. We do not give names and we do not give the exact location for obvious reasons. We respect persons’ privacy. We live in a small island with small communities… We try to protect people’s identity. We also protect places, so initially we would not give the name of the school, we wouldn’t give the establishment. However, for public health reasons if we need to, we would.

“So in the instances where we’ve given more information than that, for example with our bus driver where we gave the number plate…we had to give the number plate so that persons who may have travelled on that bus can come forward for assessment and for testing. But if it does not serve a public health purpose, as much as possible, we would protect the identity of people, and protect the identity of business places or ministries for example,” she said.

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