Thu | Oct 22, 2020

Clarendon under COVID strain, 15 church attendees positive

Published:Saturday | August 8, 2020 | 12:23 AMOlivia Brown/Gleaner Writer
Members of the Jamaica Defence Force speak with a resident as he attempts to enter the quarantined zone in Sandy Bay, Clarendon, on Thursday, August 6. Residents of the community awoke to a 14-day COVID-19 lockdown.
Members of the Jamaica Defence Force speak with a resident as he attempts to enter the quarantined zone in Sandy Bay, Clarendon, on Thursday, August 6. Residents of the community awoke to a 14-day COVID-19 lockdown.

The upsurge of coronavirus cases in Clarendon has caused a significant strain on staff and resources, says Joseph Grant, parish manager for health services.

Grant revealed that other hotspots for COVID-19 were emerging in the central Jamaica parish, a source of worry after a 14-day quarantine was imposed on the community of Sandy Bay on Thursday.

“Our staff is stretched out to the max. Other cases are popping up where we have to go and do our checks, so it is putting a strain on us, and we don’t want a continuous blossoming of COVID-19 in the parish,” Grant told The Gleaner during a tour of Sandy Bay on Friday.

Dr Kimberly Scarlett-Campbell, senior medical officer, said that Clarendon has recorded a 50 per cent increase in cases since March.

Corn Piece Settlement, another Clarendon community, had been quarantined more than four months ago.

Scarlett-Campbell said that parish has only 25 beds allotted for COVID-19 patients – 22 at May Pen Hospital and three at Lionel Town Hospital. Four of the beds are currently occupied, while other COVID-19 patients are in home isolation.

News emerged late last night that Jamaica’s coronavirus infections rose by 29 to 987 cases overall.

A church, the Mount Zion Victory Hour of Prayer, is said to be the epicentre of the Sandy Bay outbreak. The medical officer said a total of 15 congregants have so far tested positive for the respiratory disease.

Scarlett-Campbell said that plans are under way to have discussions with the Clarendon Chapter of Ministers Fraternal to enforce compliance of the established COVID-19 protocols.

“All churches in Clarendon must enforce the Ministry of Health guidelines. ... The church is a place people go in times of stress and for solace. However, it can also be a source of infection,” said Scarlett-Campbell.

Stricter measures

Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton described Sandy Bay as ground zero for the latest COVID-19 outbreak. He said that the recent spike will call for stricter containment measures.

“We are going to enforce the law more rigidly, and if it means arresting people, charging them … . We’re going to have to do it,” said Tufton, blaming the church for two other cases, bringing the extent of the coronavirus toll to 17.

Tufton insisted that the hospitals are sufficiently equipped to handle the situation.

“There is no need for people to panic; just cooperate,” he said.

Seventy community aides are being trained to assist the 70 others already on the parish’s COVID-19 response team.

Meanwhile, Sharon Hamilton, who operates a shop in the community, lamented that the quarantine has crippled sales.

“A the worse time this, ‘cause me never open yesterday (Thursday) and me get nuff sale pan holiday. Mi have all bread weh me a fret pon ‘cause mi might haffi throw them away,” said Hamilton.

The novel coronavirus has infected more than 19 million people worldwide and accounted for 719,000 deaths.

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