Fri | Jan 15, 2021

National epidemiologist optimistic about COVID curve being flattened

Published:Friday | September 25, 2020 | 11:25 AM
National epidemiologist Dr Karen Webster-Kerr speaking at a virtual press conference on September 24, 2020.

The number of days it took Jamaica to record 1,000 COVID-19 cases moved from 151 in the initial months of the pandemic to six days, but national epidemiologist Dr Karen Webster-Kerr is optimistic that there will be a flattening of the curve.

“It took us 151 days to reach the first 1,000 cases, then 20, then eight, then nine, then six, but there is some stabilisation and hopefully it means that if we continue or we improve our actions as a society, then we could see the flattening of the curve and hopefully we would have peaked and start going down from that peak,” she said during a Ministry of Health and Wellness virtual press conference on COVID-19 on Thursday.

Chief medical officer, Dr Jacquiline Bisasor McKenzie, noted that of the more than 5,000 persons who have tested positive for the virus so far, 96.6 per cent have been cases with no or mild symptoms.

“So only 3.3 per cent of cases have actually been moderate to severe and would have been monitored in hospital,” she said.

Despite the limited demand for hospitalisation, health and wellness minister Dr Christopher Tufton is expected to sign an agreement today at the Falmouth Hospital in Trelawny for the construction of two field hospitals.

One will be constructed on the compound while the other will be erected at the St Joseph’s Hospital in St Andrew.

The country’s first official field hospital was officially handed over yesterday at the National Chest Hospital in St Andrew. 

It was established with the help of the United States government. 

The Canadian government will be contributing CDN$100,000 to build another such facility to make four, the number of field hospitals that will be constructed to accommodate COVID-19 patients.

“It is in anticipation of the possibility of greater demand on the public health infrastructure, as we seek to provide medical care to those who need it most, that the plans were always in place to expand our bed count through the deployment or the build-out of field hospitals,” Tufton said.

Although the facility at chest hospital is operational and fully staffed, Tufton said, “We do not need it at this point.”

“We are now using a third or so of our 350-plus COVID ward beds and so we do have excess capacity,” he said.

The government had projected, based on an epidemiology modelling in February,  that 1.5 million Jamaicans would be infected of which 889,000 would need medical care.

“The reality is that based on that modelling, we put in place a plan to mitigate against that level of impact, and to date, if you look at the numbers, positives, hospitalisation, and the unfortunate cases of deaths, the truth is, we are doing much better than the modelling suggested,” he said. 

- Nadine Wilson-Harris

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