Testing for COVID-19 limited to sick people

| 16/03/2020 | 19 Comments
Cayman News Service
Screening for coronavirus at the entrance of the CTMH Doctors Hospital

(CNS): As Cayman began local testing on Monday for the novel coronavirus, officials stated that only those people who are sick and already showing symptoms of COVID-19 with a relevant travel history will be tested. With only five test results in for this virus at so far — four negatives and the fatal case at Health City — Cayman has no idea how widespread the virus is in the community. Public health officials said they are following the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) testing guidelines, which are quite limited.

Nevertheless, health officials have already said that more than 300 people presented with respiratory problems over the last two weeks in February, which until now have been considered flu or other conditions. It is not known if all of these patients will now be tested.

Cayman News Service
HSA coronavirus testing machine

Now that Cayman has the capacity to test locally, results will be ready in less than 48 hours, which means health officials can begin to get an understanding of the rate of infection.

Medical Officer of Health Dr Samuel Williams-Rodruiguz said the reagent required to test samples has been validated in the laboratory.

“The ability for local testing is significant as it further enhances the capabilities of the HSA to not only detect COVID-19 in real time but also provides timely intervention in the management of patients and enhances our public health surveillance and will expedite response capabilities,” he said. “Being able to test on-island will allow those persons who test negative to come out of home isolation as soon as they get results.”

The criteria for testing includes patients with flu symptoms who has a travel history to a country that has reported local transmission of COVID-19 in the last two weeks, any person with an acute respiratory illness who has been in contact of a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19 disease during the 14 days prior to the onset of symptoms, or someone with severe acute respiratory infection and requires hospitalization and no other etiology that fully explains the clinical presentation.

The virus has now spread to almost 150 countries worldwide and may already be in the community, so many health experts consider travel history to be no longer relevant.

However, it seems the CARPHA is sticking very strictly to the criteria. A sample taken from a sixth patient earlier this month in Cayman, which officials publicly stated had been sent to CARPHA for testing was not tested after all, Dr Williams-Rodriguez has confirmed.

He explained that they took a swab because of the person’s travel history to a country where the virus is present but where there is no “ongoing transmission of the virus”. However, the patient did not meet the CARPHA criteria so it was not tested. Dr Williams-Rodriguez did not identify the country and CNS has been unable to confirm which country it was.

The risk of transmission of COVID-19 has been upgraded to “very high” in the Caribbean region. But the rigid testing criteria appears to be related to the containment stage of the virus and not the pandemic stage, which will undermine the ability of countries in the region to get an accurate picture of their rates of infection.

South Korea, which has been a model of testing, is now beginning to see a decline in transmission, and despite having a very high rate of infection, its mortality rate has been very low, which officials have said is due to the widespread testing and the resulting ability to target resources.

Here in Cayman all local testing will be done under the supervision of the Public Health Department and no other test results will be accepted. Medical facilities with patients meeting the criteria are being directed to collect the swab samples and then contact the HSA lab before sending them for testing.

Meanwhile, the test results of some 30 members of staff tested at Health City Cayman Islands are expected early this week. HCCI remains closed and around 40 staff members, including doctors, remain in isolation.

CTMH Doctors Hospital is now screening all patients and visitors to its facility before allowing entry in an effort to limit potential exposure to the virus. The facility is also stepping in to fill the gap left in cardiac treatment by Health City and has “jump started its cardiac cath lab services”, treating two emergency patients over the weekend, according to the hospital’s board chair, Dr Yaron Rado.

Members of the public with flu-like symptoms or feel there is a risk they may have the disease are urged to contact the HSA at flu@hsa.ky or via the flu hotline 1-800-534-8600 or 947-3077 and a healthcare professional will conduct an initial triage over the phone. If a caller requires further medical attention, the hotline will refer them to the Flu Clinic located at the Cayman Islands Hospital.

For more information about minimising risk, visit the HSA website here (mobiles users visit the HSA website here) or the government coronavirus pages here .


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Category: Health, health and safety

Comments (19)

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  1. JustTheFacts says:

    The risk of transmission of COVID-19 has been upgraded to “very high” in the Caribbean region. Yet…still…the Cayman government health clown car is following the CARPHA clown car over the cliff. Even though they know that mass testing is an effective means to significantly flatted the curve. Can our officials not think for themselves? Can they not see the evidence that points to limited testing as a characteristic of countries with steeply upward infection curves? Perhaps bending to the outside jokers gives them an out if things go south here. “Hey…it was not our fault that people are dying. We were only following CARPHA guidelines.”

  2. Anonymous says:

    With such a small island of 60k and shrinking by the day there is no reason why EVERYONE should not be tested. Look how successful this has been in South Korea. Once everyone is tested we will know the true picture and who to quarrantine!

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  3. Anonymous says:

    Researchers found, for example, that nearly everyone routinely carries pathogens, microorganisms known to cause illnesses. In healthy individuals, however, pathogens cause no disease; they simply coexist with their host and the rest of the human microbiome, the collection of all microorganisms living in the human body. Researchers must now figure out why some pathogens turn deadly and under what conditions, likely revising current concepts of how microorganisms cause disease. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-human-microbiome-project-defines-normal-bacterial-makeup-body

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  4. Anonymous says:

    Here is what going on in Alaska ( a family member works in a hospital) : they literally don’t test anyone, they have to call lower 48 and beg for tests.

    Assume you already positive.

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  5. Anonymous says:

    So we have adopted the UK’s model on fighting Corona…. Because that is working out so well for them?!! We are a small country there should be no denial if anyone suspects they have the virus. As we all know it is most deadly because people can be asymptomatic. Staying home is essential but also as we have no clue on the health of the 30 health city employees who treated a corona patient and mingled in the community for 6 days until quarantined. We have no clue who or where these people are and how to avoid them or how many people they came in contact with before being quarantined. Also not to mention all the tourist here prior to last Thursdays anouncments.

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    • nauticalone says:

      My thoughts also. And what of the EMT’s who transported the now deceased patient? Have they been tested – they would be HSA staff, not HCCI. Why was this patient not treated as if positive for COVID-19? He surely met the criteria – even though they say he didn’t initially have respiratory problems that may have been a combination of being in the incubation period, and he was barley breathing as he had 2 heart attacks. While I applaud the steps taken since he developed respiratory problems and subsequent death, it does seem that some safety precautions were missed!

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  6. Anonymous says:

    They are only testing people who are pretty much already needing to be hospitalized… I went today and met the criteria listed and they said they would not test me.
    When I went to register there were 20 people in a tiny room all sick and another 20 outside.. they don’t take your phone number to call you when it’s your turn.. you have to wait .. so if you didn’t have corona when you came in I’m sure you’d have it by the time you got thru to see a doctor for them only to tell you they won’t test you..
    It’s a joke.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Can you at least let us know who you are to avoid close contact or if you have self quarantined yourself. If you have it, you should be at home

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      • Anonymous says:

        IF THEY HAVE IT THEY SHOULD GET TESTED FOR CONFORMATION! This is a joke and the people running the show aren’t smart enough to run anything it seems.

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  7. Anonymous says:

    If people have taken every precaution, have not been around anyone known to affected, and are not experiencing any symptoms, don’t even think about getting tested… it just clogs up the system.

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    • Anonymous says:

      If only the world was perfect and people sensible……… But what is sensible for one is foolish for another. And that is the way things always were, are and will be.

  8. Anonymous says:

    When will we know the results for the Britian passenger from Miami?

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  9. Anonymous says:

    This make zero sense. How are we supposed to know if we have the virus??

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    • Anonymous says:

      First of all…you’d have to have symptoms. If you have them, call 9-1-1 and they will come to you like the key-shaking guy from ET.

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  10. Anonymous says:

    Freak Out!

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We have created a new system to help us address questions we receive from the public for the press briefings. We are getting hundreds every day and it’s impossible to read and deal with them when the PB is in process as there are a lot of moving parts to being able to do the Zoom meeting, take notes and respond to their info in real time.

So we are asking people to send their questions each day BEFORE NOON to: covid-questions@caymannewsservice.com

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Thanks for your help. In the meantime the ones you have sent will be sorted and collated.

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