Right Steps & Poui Trees


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Some Covid Numbers for October 1-22, 2022: A Brief Access to Information Story

On October 27, 2022, I made the following Access to Information (ATI) request to the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) for information about Covid-19 during the period October 1 – 22, 2022:

Today (November 3, 2022), seven days later, I got the requested information:

And here it is in a chart for the first 3 weeks of October…

That’s all, folks.

Except to say, if MOHW can provide me with this sort of information within a week, it should be able to provide the public with a weekly report of the previous week’s Covid-19 numbers, in the same way that it currently does for monkeypox.

Added on November 4, 2022

I realised that I had left the positivity rate out of the chart I made above. So I am adding a revised chart below…

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No New Covid-19 Numbers From Ministry of Health in Nearly 4 Weeks, Despite “Weekly” Bulletins

When asked about the absence of new Covid-19 numbers since October 1, 2022, when the daily updates ended, the Ministry of Health & Wellness (MOHW) keeps saying that the information is being posted weekly on their website.

It isn’t.

The only two copies of the Weekly Epidemiological Bulletin posted on the MOHW website since the daily updates ended are the bulletins for the Week ending September 24, 2022 (posted on October 7) and for the Week ending October 1, 2022 (posted today, Oct 27).

This is not posting weekly and it means that for nearly 4 weeks – October 2 – 27, 2022, the MOHW has published no new Covid-19 numbers. We have no data on what has been happening with Covid-19 in Jamaica for the month of October. Not the number of confirmed cases, not the number of tests administered, not the positivity rate, not the number of people hospitalized, not the number of deaths reported. Nothing. We don’t know if the numbers are showing an upward trend, a downward trend or have remained pretty much the same.

And even if the MOHW posts the next Weekly Epidemiological Bulletin a week from today (November 3, 2022), it will presumably be the bulletin for the week ending October 8, 2022. Which means the information will already be nearly a month old by the time it is published. Not much use to anyone hoping to use such information to help assess the current risk, in order to adjust the precautions they take to protect themselves.

The government tells us to take personal responsibility, while reducing the information it shares that helps us to do just that.

Weekly Epidemiological Bulletin EW39 – for Week Ending October 1, 2022

And now a few comments about Bulletin EW39 itself.

  • For Bulletin EW 38 & EW 39, the MOHW has changed the format in which it now posts the Weekly Bulletin. It used to be possible to download a copy easily, with one click. That is no longer possible. Now you would have to save each of the 8 or 9 pages separately. Less easy access is not progress.
  • I am glad to see that the Bulletin now includes a full page dedicated to Covid-19 (p. 6). This is in addition to the cumulative number given on the page dealing with Class One Notifiable Events (p. 5).
  • The Covid Surveillance Update includes the number of confirmed cases for the week, as well as the totals to date. It indicates the sex and age range for these cases.
  • A chart indicating the occurence of cases over the course of the pandemic is included.
  • The list of outcomes includes the number of deaths for the Epidemiological Week (EW 39). However, it is not clear if that death actually occured during that week or if it was reported during that week but may have occured at an earlier date.
  • A chart is included showing the vaccination status of the people who have died – whether they were fully vaccinated, partially vaccinated or unvaccinated. This chart relates to deaths occuring since the vaccination programme began in March 2021.
  • The parish distribution of confirmed cases is given for the Epidemiological Week, as well as the total for each parish since the start of the pandemic.
  • The number of tests administered, which used to be given in the daily updates, is no longer being given. This is a gap in public information, as it doesn’t allow for tracking the adequacy of testing in the country. It also means that you have no idea what percentage of the tests administered has returned a positive result.
  • And, despite all the problems with it as an accurate indicator, no positivity rate is given.
  • Another number that is no longer being given is the number of people hospitalized. This is a significant gap in the public information, as over time it has proven to be one of the most reliable figures for tracking the ups and downs in the pandemic. It is also that number that has warned us when the hospital system is being overwhelmed.
  • It is interesting to note that the research paper referred to on p. 9 is related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

I have created a copy of Bulletin EW 39 2022, if you wish to download it with one click. I hope that MOHW will change the format on their website to allow for this once again.

The Covid-19 pandemic is not over. It is ongoing. The MOHW is now giving us Covid data that is already a month old by the time it is published. This is not good enough. While it may suffice for recording purposes, it is not good enough during an ongoing pandemic. The MOHW publishes a weekly update giving the data for the previous week for monkeypox. It should do the same for Covid-19.


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350 Words or Less: A Picture Worth Some Number of Words…

While on Twitter today, I saw a photo attached to a Ministry of Health & Wellness tweet…

…that I thought was worth some number of words, if not a thousand. Here it is…

L to R : Minister Chris Tufton, Permanent Secretary Dunstan Bryan, Dr Karen Webster-Kerr, Professor Peter Figueroa, Dr Joy St. John

It was taken on September 15, 2022, at the opening ceremony of the recently held 66th Health Research Conference of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), which took place in Jamaica.

Note who in the front row are wearing masks and who are not.

Wearing masks: National Epidemiologist, Professor of Public Health, Epidemiology & HIV/AIDS at the University of the West Indies, Executive Director of Caribbean Public Health Agency

Not wearing masks: Minister of Health & Wellness, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health & Wellness

Interesting.


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Reintroducing the Mask Mandate…Yes, but When?

On March 17, 2022, when the use of the Disaster Risk Management Act (DRMA) for Covid-19 management orders ended, the general mask mandate ended.

On March 18, 2022, under the Public Health Act – Public Health Enforcement Measures (Coronavirus Covid-19) Order 2022 – a mask mandate for enclosed spaces came into effect and was scheduled to expire on April 15, 2022.

On March 22, 2022, Minister of Education Fayval Williams confirmed to Morning Agenda host Jodi-Ann Quarrie that the wearing of masks was no longer mandated for schools. Highly recommended but no longer mandated.

On April 15, 2022, the mask mandate under the Public Health Act Covid-19 Order expired and was not renewed.

On May 18, 2022, at a Ministry of Health & Wellness (MOHW) press briefing, Minister Chris Tufton officially confirmed what others had been saying, that Jamaica was now experiencing a 5th wave of Covid-19. He said the wave was probably caused by the highly transmissible Omicron BA.2 subvariant and had an inflection point of around April 20, 2022.

At the May 18, 2022 MOHW briefing, Minister of Education Fayval Williams confirmed that an increase in Covid-19 cases in schools was being reported.

On May 19, 2022, via a General Bulletin, the Ministry of Education and Youth (MOEY) informed school administrators that “the wearing of masks is mandatory at school effective immediately and until further advised.” The general public learned of this reintroduction via the media…social and traditional.

On May 20, 2022, while speaking at a handover ceremony in St James, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said that “It is going to be a requirement shortly for all of our citizens to return to wearing their masks.” This was widely reported in the media, with clips of the PM’s words.

On May 22, 2022, Jamaica Information Service (JIS) published a report about the PM’s statement titled “Gov’t To Reintroduce Mask Mandate”.

But here we are, on May 30, 2022, ten days later, with no mask mandate reintroduced and with no indication when…or if…this reintroduction of the mask mandate will take place.

Quite frankly, this inaction and lack of certainty is unacceptable. We have heard nothing further since Prime Minister Holness spoke about it. Was it an off the cuff statement to ease the pressure at the time but with no substance to it? Or has the PM changed his mind since? Or have the public health experts at the MOHW advised that the reintroduction of a mask mandate isn’t necessary, advice which they have supported with scientific data or references?

The PM has left us hanging. Not a comfortable position to be in at the best of times. And a Covid-19 wave, however gentle when compared to previous waves, is not the best of times. The public is entitled to some clarity on this. PM Holness? Minister Tufton? CMO Bisasor-McKenzie?

(And, yes, I know that we keep being told that these are policy decisions. And advice from the technical experts to the Cabinet is privileged. And that is the convention. But I increasingly question this convention, as decisions on serious public health matters during a pandemic are being made, with the public not entitled to know if our government’s decisions are in line with or contrary to the advice being given by public health experts.)

Below is a chart showing some of the MOHW numbers for the past 2 weeks.

And the report for yesterday has just been released…

View reports on the MOHW website


Three Covid Press Releases (April 13 -21, 2022 – One OPM, Two MOHW) & A Bit More

The Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) Press Release – Wednesday, April 13, 2022

It wasn’t a surprise that some of the Covid-19 protocols were allowed to expire; the government had been signaling the intention to further relax the measures required. I don’t think it was a wise move to remove the mask mandate for enclosed spaces that the public has access to. It was also odd that whereas the mask mandate was removed for people in enclosed spaces, it is still required that people sanitize their hands before entering those enclosed spaces…when what we are dealing with is an airborne virus.

It was interesting that the announcement of the decision not to extend the pre-testing and masking requirements under the Public Health Act order was made via a press release from OPM, though the Public Health (Enforcement Measures) (Coronavirus COVID-19) Order, 2022 was issued by the Minister of Health & Wellness.

Ministry of Health & Wellness (MOHW) Press Release – Tuesday, April 19, 2022

With the requirement to wear masks in enclosed spaces coming to an end on April 15, 2022, on April 19, 2022 the MOHW issued a press release informing the public that masks would still be required in all health facilities, as would protocols for hand washing and physical distancing. The Ministry outlined its reasons for this.

Ministry of Health & Wellness (MOHW) Press Release – Thursday, April 21, 2022

On April 21, 2022, the MOHW informed the country that the Omicron BA.2 variant had been identified in 2 of 88 samples tested at the National Influenza Centre at the University Hospital of the West Indies. However, the samples were collected between January 1 – March 4, 2022, making them one and a half to three and a half months old by the time of reporting. So we know Omicron BA.2 is in Jamaica, but these sample results tell us very little about the situation in the country now, in mid-to-late April.

I wonder why the genome sequencing results we are getting from local testing are for such old samples. Is this the length of time the sequencing will normally take? Or has there been some glitch in the process that is causing the delayed results? Are any current samples being tested? If so, when will we get those results? It would be disappointing if we now have the capacity to test locally but are getting results with as long a delay as when we were sending samples to CARPHA, PAHO or CDC for sequencing.

COVID-19 data from MOHW for the past two weeks – April 14 – 27, 2022

The daily Covid-19 reports from MOHW are showing an upward trend, which is obviously cause for concern. Today’s report showed 115 confirmed cases in 24 hours, the first time since February 13, 2022 that the number has been over 100; that day there were 109 confirmed cases. And the positivity rate has now gone into double digits again; the last time it was in double digits was on February 16, 2022, when it was 10.3%. It has been above the recommended 5% for most of the past two weeks.

MOHW Covid-19 press conference today, Thursday, April 28, 2022

Perhaps the upward trend in the Covid-19 data is the reason for the press conference that has been called by the MOHW for this evening. Perhaps the intention is to reassure the country that the hospital system is able to cope with the expected increase in cases and to encourage people to follow the preventative protocols and to get vaccinated. I don’t know what else is on the agenda and if there will be any unexpected announcements or information.

Something I would like to hear more about is what is happening with Long Covid in Jamaica – what follow-up is being done, what data is being collected, what such data is showing, what support is being offered to people with Long Covid. We really need more information to be shared with the public…with individuals dealing with Long Covid, their families, schools, workplaces. Unfortunately, I am not very hopeful that this will be on the agenda.


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But The Samples Tested Are 2-3 Months Old, Ministry of Health & Wellness…

Yesterday (April 11, 2022), the Ministry of Health & Wellness (MOHW) sent out a press release titled “Omicron BA1 Remains Dominant Covid-19 Strain in Jamaica”. When you read the release, you see that this statement is based on samples collected 2-3 months ago, between January 5 – February 12, 2022. So whereas the results say something about the situation at that point in time, they don’t say much about the situation now, in the second week in April.

“The Omicron BA1 strain of the COVID-19 virus continues to be the dominant strain observed in the Jamaican population. Samples collected between January 5 and February 12, 2022 and tested recently, showed that 100% of those samples yielded a positive result for Omicron BA1. Jamaicans are reminded that Omicron is spread more easily (twice as fast) than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus.

At the same time, vaccination remains the best defense against the COVID-19 virus and its variants, guarding against severe illness, hospitalisation, and death.  To receive a COVID-19 vaccine, members of the public may visit the more than 250 access points across the island.

Up to 10 a.m. on Monday, (April 11) over 1.4 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine had been administered in country. Of that number, 690,649 were first doses; 584,764-second doses; 93,989 single doses; 3,758 immunocompromised doses and booster doses 31,030.

Additionally members of the public should ensure that they remain vigilant in the practice of the other infection prevention and control measures, mask wearing, physical distancing and handwashing.”  

I don’t know if these samples were tested here in Jamaica or if they were sent overseas for testing…to CARPHA, PAHO or CDC. There has always been a time lag between collection of samples and the genome sequencing results, which has reduced the usefulness of the results in assessing our current Covid-19 situation. The hope had been that the time lag would have been reduced once we got the testing equipment and the necessary training for staff. I am not sure what has been happening since the training was being done in January and why the results announced were not from more recent samples. Perhaps we will hear more from the Minister or the Ministry during the week.

In a few days, on April 15, 2022, some of the Covid-19 protocols that were preserved under the Public Health Act will expire. We should hear shortly whether any will be extended. The MOHW data for the past two weeks suggest that they won’t be, but we’ll see.

PS – After I had published this blog post, I saw that MOHW put out the figures for yesterday, April 11, 2022. So I updated my chart and added it below.


The Public Health (Emergency Measures) (Coronavirus COVID-19) Order, 2022 – dated March 18, 2022

On Thursday, March 17, 2022, Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced that the use of the Disaster Risk Management Act (DRMA) to implement Covid-19 emergency measures would end the following day. He said that a few of the measures that had been in place would instead be administered under the Public Health Act but that all others would come to an end.

The Ministry of Health & Wellness (MOHW) issued a press release about the revocation of the DRMA Covid-19 Orders and indicated that a copy of new Public Health Enforcement Measures Order was attached to the release.

However, although the press release was posted on the MOHW website, the attached Order doesn’t seem to have been posted there. It was posted on the Office of the Prime Minister’s website.

I have posted a copy of the Order below.

Some of the measures are scheduled to expire in a week’s time, on April 15, 2022 and the PM had indicated that a review is to take place to determine what will happen after that time. If the Covid data from the MOHW continues on the trend of the past few weeks, it is likely that the remaining measures will not be extended. The rising number of cases and hospitalisations in the UK, the USA and Canada is cause for concern, however, as in the past increases in those countries have been followed some weeks later by increases here in Jamaica.


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A Week Later & for the Prime Minister, the Argument is Still Done

A week ago, on Sunday, January 9, 2022, Prime Minister Andrew Holness held a press conference to announce a Zone of Special Operations (ZOSO) in Parade Gardens in Central Kingston because of the levels of violent crime occurring in the area. When the press conference had been called the evening before, many wondered if it was being called because of the increase in Covid-19 cases that was happening as the 4th wave picked up momentum.

During the question and answer period, Gleaner reporter Tenesha Mundle asked PM Holness this question:

“Are we planning to return to lockdowns and, if lockdowns are off the table, what other strategies will be implemented to halt the current Covid-19 wave?”

PM Holness replied:

“I wasn’t planning on turning this into a Covid Conversation. But I know there is great tension in the air. And what it says to me is that people are not listening to what I have said. I’ve been very clear, in Parliament, very clear, absolutely, gone overboard to say we are not going back to lockdowns. So, be calm! And I’ve said what the strategy is. It is now in your hands! Go and take the vaccine! That is the strategy. We can’t hold you down and put the needle in your hand. If you get sick, you tek that responsibility. There is an option; we have vaccines all over the place. We have sites all over the place. I don’t hear one person complain that they can’t get the vaccine anywhere. Go and get vaccinated! Argument done!”

Argument done. Go and take the vaccine. That is the strategy.

In the week that followed, the situation has worsened:

  • We have had the highest reported number of new confirmed cases in a 24-hour period since the start of the pandemic (1968 on Jan 15, 2022)
  • We have had the highest positivity rate since the start of the pandemic (68.6% on Jan 13, 2022) and on 5 days of last week , the positivity rate was over 50%.
  • The number of people hospitalised with confirmed cases of Covid-19 moved from 294 at the start of the week to 446 by the end of the week.
  • In Parliament on Tuesday (Jan 11, 2022) in a statement in which he extended existing Covid measures without changes for another 2 weeks, PM Holness noted that although the country’s Covid bed capacity of 700 beds had not yet been reached, hospitalisations were increasing sharply and Covid beds might soon be full. (The slide he shared was a reminder that hospital beds are occupied by both people with confirmed Covid cases and those with suspected cases, who are awaiting test results. The daily reports from the Ministry of Health & Wellness give the number of people hospitalised with confirmed cases only; so the number actually is always higher on the ground.)

During the week, the heads of regional health authorities and some hospitals were in the news detailing some of the challenges that were being experienced in the health system:

In a Jamaica Observer article on Thursday (January 13, 2022), – University hospital under pressure from Covid patients – Chief Executive Officer at University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) was quoted commenting about the situation at the hospital:

Chief executive officer of UHWI Kevin Allen told the Jamaica Observer that the operations at the institution were becoming difficult as the fourth wave of the virus shapes up to wreak havoc. He reported that the system is further strained as roughly 90 nurses are at home, sick.

For patients and staff, Allen said the situation is “stressful, frustrating and difficult”. He encouraged staff to “hold it because the worst is yet to come”.

“We are putting systems in place and we are working to see how best we can ensure we hold it. We are not in breakdown days yet, but it is rough,” he said.

“The last report I have seen, we have some 90 nurses out of the system and that is crippling our operations. We have roughly 880 nurses and about 10 per cent have come down with the virus,” Allen added.

“We were already operating short with these skill sets, so to lose so many will impact on the quality of care. All the areas that we operate are full. The field hospitals are full, isolation is full, emergency is full with patients. We had to revert to using tents.”

On Friday (January 14, 2022), UHWI issued a press release notifying the public to expect delays at the hospital.

On Saturday (January 15, 2022), Minister Tufton posted a series of tweets about the situation at a number of hospitals he had visited, including Bustamante Hospital for Children, which was being affected by an increase in Covid-19 cases and reduced staff, due to infection and quarantine.

In an article in Loop News that same day – Covid Surge: Highest number of paediatric cases at Bustamante hospital – Senior Medical Officer, Dr Michelle-Ann Richards-Dawson was quoted as saying:

“We are currently in the fourth wave of the pandemic. We have been through three before but this one is different. The pace at which people are getting infected and symptomatic is alarming and therefore it is important that we vaccinate to protect ourselves and our loved ones”.

The Jamaica Medical Doctors’ Association (JMDA) issued a release expressing their concerns about the current situation…

…which was endorsed today by the Medical Association of Jamaica (MAJ)…

So with this and more having occurred in the last week, many people wondered if Covid-19 would be on the agenda of the Office of the Prime Minister press conference announced last night. However, it wasn’t.

This morning, PM Holness told the country that a ZOSO had been declared for some sections of Westmoreland, which has been plagued by violent crime. At the end of the press conference, the ususal question and answer segment took place. The final question was asked by Ricardo Brooks of Nationwide News Network.

Ricardo Brooks: Good morning, Prime Minister. The country’s positivity rate has topped 60% and hospitalization, the situation there is deteriorating. Do you still hold to the point that “Argument done”?

The Prime Minister answered: You have said it. Thank you!

That was all. And then the press conference ended.

At the point we are at in the 4th wave, this is not an adequate or appropriate response from Jamaica’s Prime Minister. We are told that the peak of the wave is not expected for another two or more weeks. The health care system is already on the verge of being overwhelmed by the increased number of cases and the staff shortages. The strategy that PM Holness offered last week – “Go and take the vaccine! That is the strategy.” – will not slow this current surge. He may feel he has spoken enough; he may feel frustrated; he may have had another appointment to go to. But this was a national press conference he called, to talk about another issue, yes. But he must have expected that he would be questioned about the Covid-19 situation and it would have been good if he had used the opportunity, on a Sunday morning, to have said something more useful.


Covid Reflections: Time for one of Dr Bisasor-McKenzie or Dr Webster-Kerr’s Covid-19 Updates

I’ve seen or heard pieces of information in the media about where we now are in the 3rd wave. For example, last week in an interview on Nationwide News Network, National Epidemiologist Dr Karen Webster-Kerr spoke about the expectation that the peak of this wave would occur in 2 weeks’ time and she gave projections for deaths in the coming weeks. During a discussion on Nationwide on Wednesday, Prof Winston Davidson mentioned that the reproductive number was now at 1.1. (For full disclosure, I was one of the other participants in the discussion.) In today’s Gleaner there is an article that refers to information said to have been obtained from Dr Webster-Kerr and the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW):

“A hair-raising 250 COVID-19 deaths occurred in August, with another 60 fatalities still under investigation, said Dr Karen Webster-Kerr, national epidemiologist. Scores of other deaths reported in August occurred months earlier.

August 26 was the deadliest day for the month, with 20 persons succumbing to the COVID-19.

However, the 296 COVID-19-related deaths for March outstripped August’s.

Data from the Ministry of Health and Wellness obtained by The Gleaner showed that another 20 deaths in March are under investigation.

With the country recording a total of 69,054 COVID-19 cases as at September 2 and a total of 1,568 deaths as a result of the disease, the ministry is reporting that the overall (2020 to 2021) COVID-19 case death rate is 2.3 per cent.

The death rate in August (1.6 per cent) plunged only because infections soared almost fivefold, month-on-month, to more than 15,300.”

At the Office of the Prime Minister’s (OPM) press briefing on Wednesday (1-9-21), Prime Minister Holness included 3 of the slides that are normally included in the MOHW PowerPoint updates and he commented on them, something which he has done before, though moreso in Parliament. Although both the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie and Dr Webster-Kerr were present at the press briefing, neither spoke from the podium or gave the ususal update.

(Perhaps this was in keeping with the brief nature of the press briefing…only 3 slides, and only two questions allowed in the Q&A.)

The last of these MOHW Covid-19 updates that I can find is the one given at the OPM press briefing on August 19, 2021, by Dr Bisasor-McKenzie.

That is now more than two weeks ago, two weeks in which we have moved towards the peak of the 3rd wave. In that time there have been dramatic increases in the number of cases, the number of hospitalizations, the number of deaths. But we are being told that with the reproductive rate reducing and the positivity rate down from the high of 54%, there may be glimmerings of hope. This is exactly the time at which we need a full update from the CMO or the National Epidemiologist. To place us now in the context of indicators that the MOHW has used for so long.

Why haven’t we had one of these updates, at one of the times when we perhaps need it most, since the start of the pandemic?

We have been getting these periodically. They have been a useful way of tracking changes. Whatever problems some may have with aspects of the data, this is a way of following what the MOHW says the position is, what they are using to base decisions on, what the government is basing decisions on.

There was no MOHW Covid Conversation yesterday; Thursday is the ususal day for them if they are being held. No presentation at the OPM press briefing on Wednesday. No presentation at Parliament’s Joint Select Committee dealing with Covid-related matters on Tuesday; Parliament is on summer break. These are the three places that the public usually gains access to these updates. A presentation with commentary by Dr Bisasor-McKenzie or Dr Webster-Kerr would be best. But if that’s not going to happen, post the PowerPoint online on the MOHW website. In fact, press briefing or no press briefing, Covid Conversation or no Covid Conversation, Joint Select Committee or no Joint Select Committee, post it at regular intervals on the MOHW website.

During a crisis such as this pandemic, information to the public is crucial. With this Delta-variant-fueled 3rd wave, with our public hospitals not offering anything but emergency services, with bed capacity overwhelmed, with dangerous oxygen shortages, we are in a crisis within the crisis. We need more information, not less.


Covid Reflections: With Public Hospitals Accepting Emergencies Only, We Have Entered Another Phase in Our 3rd Wave

Yesterday Jamaica’s Ministry of Health and Wellness issued a press release stating that the country’s public hospitals would be accepting emergency cases only, until further notice. The large number of people confirmed with or suspected of having Covid-19 who need hospitalisation has resulted in the hospitals exceeding their Covid-19 isolation capacity. So other hospital spaces and resources have to be dedicated to treating people with Covid-19. General hospital service has been suspended, including elective surgeries, and people who can be cared for at home are being discharged. The Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr Bisasor-McKenzie, is quoted as saying that “The rising demand for oxygen also threatens to overwhelm the supply.”

Curiously, this press release has not (yet) been posted on the MOHW website.

This decision by the MOHW signals that the country has entered into a new phase in the 3rd wave of Covid infections in Jamaica but it does not come as a surprise if you have been following the news and numbers in the past couple of months. And the news and numbers over the last week or two have clearly shown the deepening crisis.

People in government and outside of government have been speaking about the increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases, the increasing numbers of hospital admissions, the pressure for space within the hospitals, the pressure on staff within the hospitals. These comments and information have come through official statements at government press conferences, through media interviews, in press releases, on social media.

A small sampling of examples…

Dr Melody Ennis of MOHW was speaking with Dionne Jackson Miller on RJR
Nurse Patsy Edwards-Henry, President of Jamaica Nurses Association, was speaking with Sanjay Lewis on Power 106
MOHW PS Dunstan Bryan speaking with RJR
Slide shown at OPM press conference on August 9, 2021, while PM Andrew Holness spoke & said “I want us to pay attention to this graph. It shows our daily confirmed cases of Covid-19 in blue, while the red line shows the 7-day moving average of new hospitalisations. You can see that our daily hospital admissions are now at the same level as our previous peak in March/April 2021. We now have approximately 500 of 700 beds allocated for Covid-19 occupied islandwide and a number of our large hospitals are over capacity.”
(Transcribed from PBCJ recording of OPM press conference, August 9, 2021.)
Slide presented at MOHW press conference August 12, 2021. CMO Dr Bisasor-McKenzie said: “We can see now, compared to last week, that our bed occupancy now is at over 600 beds occupied with both confirmed cases and suspected cases…Our peak, March/April, we were at just over 700 and now we are just over 600.”
(Transcribed from PBCJ recording of MOHW press conference.)
In a report on August 17, 2021, JIS covered this point made by Dr Bisasor-McKenzie, where she said “We are fast approaching that peak, which will put us in a very dangerous zone in terms of the care for COVID patients in our hospitals. It puts us in a very high level of pressure on the hospital system.”
Dr Andrew Manning, Medical Association of Jamaica President, in a news report on RJR, August 16-8-21 – MAJ Alarmed at Record High COVID Positivity Rate
Slide showing hospital capacity – OPM press briefing on August 19, 2021 – CMO Dr Bisasor-McKenzie said. ” And this is what is happening in our hospitals. Across the regions, what we are seeing is that the four regions are in an alert phase in terms of Covid capacity. For the southern region, we have gone over the capacity for Covid beds; we’re at 162% occupancy. For the western region, 142%. For the north east region, 125% and for the south east region at 97%. It means that most of our major hospitals, our main hospitals, are really full….As you can imagine, our health care workers are tired, they’re frustrated, they’re overworked, they’re stressed.”
(Transcribed from PBCJ recording.)
This week Wednesday (August 25, 2021) All Angles on TVJ did a special report about the Savanna-La-Mar Hospital, which is struggling with an influx of Covid-19 patients. Dionne Jackson Miller interviewed members of staff – doctors, nurses, a porter, the CEO – about conditions at the hospital. It was a harrowing and moving programme.

And today a number of media houses have carried reports that there is a severe shortage of medical oxygen in the country, which is now affecting the supply to hospitals, some of which are said to be out of oxygen. There has not at this point been an official statement on this from the Ministry of Health & Wellness.

There is an urgent need for a press conference to be held focusing on the dire crisis in the hospitals. Despite the many warnings that this was where we were heading, now that we are here, the public of Jamaica deserves a full update. This is particularly urgent in light of the fact that the Dr Karen Webster-Kerr, National Epidemiologist, has said that this 3rd wave won’t peak for another two weeks. That thereafter it is likely to take several months to come down from that peak. That, although she is reluctant to give predictions about deaths, we are likely to see 140-150 deaths over the next week and an additional 10-20 on top of that number the following week. (She was speaking in an interview on Nationwide News Network on Thursday, August 26, 2021). This means that the pressure on the hospitals is likely to continue for weeks to come, increasing further before it decreases.

It is Saturday night. The curfew started at 6pm. For the next 3 days, Jamaicans are under 24-hour curfews, with the curfew ending at 5am Tuesday morning. Tomorrow – Sunday – would be a good time to hold a press conference. Let us know what time. Most of us will be at home…